Benefit cut for choosy jobless

The government intends to put into effect a law that blocks unemployment benefits from being paid to recipients if they turn down work opportunities offered to them, Deputy Labor Minister Gerasimos Giakoumatos told Kathimerini. The deputy minister said that allowances being paid by the state manpower organization, OAED, will be blocked if an unemployed person twice turns down a job or a training program. «The law will take effect only after we proceed with the necessary changes along with the National Employment Committee,» said Giakoumatos. The law giving the ministry this right was passed by a Socialist government in 1985 but has apparently not been used. «We want to find out who really is unemployed and who is not looking for work,» he added. Government officials believe that this will result in lower national unemployment figures as a number of people are believed to have joined the jobless queue simply to boost their chances of qualifying for work with the public service. Greece has one of the highest unemployment rates in the European Union despite years of strong economic growth. However, the jobless rate fell sharply to 8.8 percent in the second quarter, its lowest level since 1998, from 9.6 percent in the same period a year earlier. The conservative government projects unemployment at 9.8 percent this year. Stricter rules have also been introduced in other countries but problems arose when the state mismatched unemployed people with jobs that were not suitable for their qualifications. This will be avoided, according to Giakoumatos, as all OAED services are to be put online. «At any point in time, we will know each unemployed person’s profile: his needs, his experience and his training,» said the deputy minister. Future plans for OAED also include introducing incentives for employers to declare vacant positions to the job-finding service.