Job creation moves to local level

The right to hire workers on short-term contracts for public works and infrastructure projects is going to be passed to municipalities again as part of a three-year plan to reduce skyrocketing unemployment.

Deputy Interior Minister Paris Koukoulopoulos revealed Tuesday that the program should provide at least short-term employment for up to 100,000 people over the next three years.

Some 3 billion euros will be provided for the projects. Of this, 1.5 billion euros will be from a loan by the European Investment Bank, while the rest of the money will come from municipal and European Union funds.

The scheme represents a significant departure from recent practices as municipalities will be allowed to hire the workers to be employed on these projects. They had been banned from doing this since 2005 as it was deemed that local officials were taking advantage of the fact that they were being allowed to hire personnel directly instead of going through the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP) to employ candidates based on personal and political connections.

?These projects will serve to boost employment and will give unemployed people, chiefly from the construction trade, some hope,? said Koukoulopoulos. All the people employed under the scheme will be paid 625 euros a month.

The recently published unemployment figures for May showed that the jobless rate had risen to 16.6 percent, meaning that more than 820,000 people are out of work. The worst-hit region was Western Macedonia, with a 24.9 percent jobless rate.