25,000 new state jobs

The government is hastening the introduction of part-time employment in the public sector and is expected to hire 25,000 people in this way in the next few months. This and a number of other changes to the labor system were decided at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday. «The primary target of our policies, aimed at speeding up convergence with the EU average, is the increase in employment and a drop in unemployment,» Simitis said after the four-hour meeting. «Unemployment is in decline. According to the latest available data, it is at 8.9 percent, the EU average, in other words. In Europe the trend is upward.» Among the measures decided yesterday were the possibility of subsidizing employment for the unemployed, an increase in the period that businesses will receive subsidies and offsetting the reduction in social security payments with the tax on salaries and other taxes that burden employers. Simitis said that the government’s target, according to its Convergence Charter, is to bring the average unemployment rate down to 6 percent in 2008 and the women’s unemployment rate to 8 percent. The aim is to increase employment in general by 1.5 percent annually and that of women by 2 percent annually. Another aim is to provide unemployed people aged under 25 with a job or vocational training within six months or, for those older, within 12 months. Further, the non-salary costs of workers are to be reduced by up to 15 percent so that companies can hire more easily, Simitis said. On Monday, an interministerial committee will meet to finalize the operational plans for the hiring of part-time workers in the public sector. Positions will be announced piecemeal and hirings will be supervised by the ASEP committee, which is in charge of public sector hiring. The 25,000 new positions in social services are expected to be filled before the elections, which are due by early May. Among the measures decided yesterday are: unemployed people who receive a subsidy can be hired full- or part-time for as long as the subsidy lasts and their wages cannot be lower than the unemployment checks they would have been getting; employers who hire people to fill in for employees who are on maternity leave will be subsidized to the amount equal to the social security fees they pay for the temporary workers.