OPINION

Job: Underemployed

job-underemployed

In its annual report on the Greek economy, the Labor Institute of Greece’s biggest private sector union, GSEE, simply confirmed in numbers what is pervasive in society: loss of income, unemployment and the “impoverishment of employees.” 

It is estimated that about 180,000 employees are living on the 534 euros of the special compensation paid by the government for having their labor contracts suspended, while unemployment is estimated to come to around 21.2% at the end of 2020. And we’re not even mentioning underemployment – a euphemism for unemployment.

Those who worked in the arts and entertainment (in theaters, cinemas, cultural productions, music, etc) or in tourism, were violently disconnected from the labor market, with their jobs simply disappearing from one moment to the next.

What of the artists? Their communication with the public is frozen. The distances, the masks and the fear, are a drama in itself, played between the stage and the public square. This is the case for those artists who participate in some of the new performances that are being shown, timidly and subject to conditions. 

What of the tour guides? Their phones ring only for cancellations. What fills the void? How do these thousands of people go about their daily lives? And, most importantly, what kind of future do they have?

Societies are filling up with gray areas of former employees who are trying to fend off poverty and marginalization. Any sources of joy are limited by the necessary protective measures to deal with the pandemic, while sources of stress are multiplying.

I’m just making observations, you may say. If they help at all, it is by keeping what is slowly being absorbed as a permanent reality in the public debate. The more we consider a problem permanent, the more we delay finding a solution. For how long will a population of formerly active professionals be marginally sustained with handouts?

Such questions require political solutions, from a government in touch with real problems and from an opposition that will not act on the basis of party interests. Solutions can be time consuming (such as reorganizing the economy and changing growth models), but they offer something to look forward to. This hope breeds optimism, creativity, ideas and change – it eliminates grey areas. Every new day needs some light; not more polarization and censures.