Sign of the times

The problems of the economy and the sense of security or otherwise of economically active people are not depicted only by the unemployment statistics, new jobs and business profitability that we usually look to. The most eloquent illustrations are to be seen in isolated incidents which reflect all the public’s uncertainty regarding the economic future. When OTE, the Greek telecom utility, held an examination for 391 jobs, it received 20,000 applications. That means 51 candidates for each position. And for most of the jobs the prerequisite is a degree (only eight asked for school-leaving certificates), so nearly all the candidates were graduates, and theoretically have more opportunities to find satisfactory jobs in the private sector. Apparently, these opportunities are purely theoretical, or jobs in the private sector are so insecure that a job in a state agency is preferable, with the prospect of permanent, full-time employment, even though the remuneration is lower and promotion is more or less preordained. What is of prime interest here is not so much the procedure of the OTE examination as the huge number of applicants, which confirms this uncertainty about the future, the intensity with which unemployment affects young graduates and the lack of confidence in the private sector, presumably because lately many jobs are part-time and offer few prospects. This ratio of 51 applicants to each job shows – more than any indications of delays in loan repayment, bad debts, and reduction in retail demand – not only that times are tough, but that people are convinced that the future will be even tougher. From the viewpoint of economic and social policy, this adds to the economic slowdown, the ailing stock market, and the alarming consequences of war in supporting the need to adapt government planning, both by structural measures and job creation incentives and by social support and care for jobless people seeking work. In addition, the swarm of applicants shows the great social importance of transparency and meritocracy in appointments to the public sector in general. For the 20,000 contesting 391 jobs at OTE, this examination must be transparent and merit-based. This is the criterion on which the State and its institutions will be judged.