Two conflicting images

Two conflicting images

Let us take a moment to ponder two things that have been presented to us in recent days. First of all, there was the video of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announcing the government’s intention to pay out the so-called social dividend “to citizens who need it most.” He is seen in the street, with the camera zooming in on fellow Greeks who have very little purchasing power at all. The video then moves to Maximos Mansion, where we see Tsipras looking thoughtful and then smiling, as though ready to read out his public address of November 13 when he announced the handout. The title of the video could be “It Is What Is Just and It’s Been Done.” At the end, we are informed by a nice-sounding lady that “the social dividend is a sign of respect.”

The second thing was the special report by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on the position of young people in the labor market, based on a survey of 15- to 34-year-olds conducted in the second half of 2016. It concluded that the main way of finding work is through acquaintances, friends or relatives (39.9 percent). The second most common way of finding a job was through direct contact with the employer (18 percent), while the third was classified ads, which helped 14.5 percent of young people find work. The Manpower Organization, which is the state body responsible for helping unemployed people find jobs, only managed to help 2.4 percent of young people to find employment.

We won’t comment on the high rate of youth unemployment or the brain drain since the start of the crisis – always a favorite topic for politicians. Neither trend is about to be reversed anytime soon. The longer it takes for growth to arrive, the higher the number of young people leaving the country will climb; the longer prosperity remains elusive, the more unemployment and flexible or illegal labor will grow and define the country.

But there is something else in those findings that bodes ill, and that is the continued dominance of the crony system in the job market. Buddying up to the right people, the informal “interview,” the job advertisement that’s there as window dressing: Everything that tramples on the concept of meritocracy is alive and well.

In the video we see the self-serving use of power; in the study, relentless reality. In one we see a desperate attempt to fish for votes; in the other simple desperation. The only thing that is just – creating real jobs instead of giving handouts – is not being done; not out of respect for fellow countrymen in need, but out of a lack of respect for everyone.

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