Option of fund for jobless pondered

The creation of the first fund of its type to provide financial relief for workers in areas hit by economic problems is the next move being considered by the government as part of its social security reforms, sources said yesterday. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Labor and Social Security Minister Savvas Tsitouridis to discuss the government’s options ahead of a parliamentary debate on pensions and insurance on May 11. Sources told Kathimerini the two men talked about the creation of a solidarity fund which will boost benefits for unemployed workers in areas where the jobless rate is high. The money for the fund is likely to come from a reorganization of current benefit payouts. If created, this will be the first fund of its type in Greece. It will be used in areas like Naoussa in Macedonia, where 48 percent of the work force is unemployed following the closure of many textile factories. The ruling conservatives have already pledged to give workers in Naoussa who are over 50 years old the option of taking early retirement. Tsitouridis said the government regards this as a one-off measure. «Resorting to this amendment is an extreme measure, not a rule,» he said. With regard to wider reforms of the social security system, the minister said that some «housekeeping» would be done during the government’s current term in office before more substantial reforms would be considered.