NEWS

Migrants lift economy

Greece’s influx of migrants over the last 10 years or so brought a range of benefits to the economy as the country successfully came to grips with its reshaped labor force, even though it failed to make full use of its imported human resources, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In a two-year report on Greece that has yet to be released but was seen by Sunday’s Kathimerini, the OECD described the country’s handling of more than 1 million migrants entering the country as a «success story,» saying that the recently acquired work force was easily absorbed due to the existing illegal labor market. The sharp increase in the labor supply by about 5 to 10 percent over the past decade was absorbed without a jump in unemployment and with relatively few social problems, the OECD said. The Paris-based think tank added that indirect tax receipts have been boosted by migrant spending, and pointed out that the new workers also contribute to the country’s creaking social security system. Research published earlier this year showed that migrants contribute more to the system than they draw on its resources, as many of the contributors are relatively young. In a bid to bring its immigration policies in line with EU regulations, Greece is preparing a parliamentary bill that will slash the red tape faced by those applying for a residence and work permit. The new law is expected to come into effect at the start of 2006. Other benefits from the inlux of migrants include improved productivity and higher corporate profits, especially in the construction sector, which boomed in the lead up to the Olympic Games in Athens last year. On the downside, Greece has not taken advantage of the fields of specialization the migrants brought with them, since most of them are used in illegal forms of work. The availability of cheap labor has also encouraged companies to delay spending on labor-saving technologies, an area which Greece lags behind its EU counterparts.