An urgent need for jobs

The bad news keeps coming: Construction is down 23.7 percent, tourism receipts are dropping, industrial production has shrunk, shopkeepers are reporting a dramatic loss of revenues. Every day it’s something else. The causes are the global crisis and the weaknesses of the Greek economy. The result is that unemployment is up and less cash is circulating. Everyone loses – the state, businesses and citizens. But as we wonder what to do about the unemployed, there is a severe shortage of workers in key sectors. Public hospitals don’t have enough nurses, beaches are without lifeguards, most archaeological sites and museums close at 3 p.m. in the middle of the tourist season, central Athens slides into chaos because of a lack of security, parks are filthy and much of the country resembles a garbage dump. Everywhere we see signs of neglect because the budget does not have money for things that need to be done. Even as the number of jobseekers grows, they don’t find opportunities in sectors that could grow. For example, an unemployed construction worker or farmer could work as a guard or gardener at an archaeological site, as part of a program that would develop such sites all over Greece. This would put money in his or her pocket, support the local economy and lead to revenues for the state. But the state would first have to adopt a policy of developing the country’s cultural potential. Hiring enough lifeguards to be on duty on beaches all the hours that people are swimming would be another worthwhile investment. As would the hiring of people involved in protecting the environment or keeping national and country roads clean. A state stimulus program for the economy cannot be limited to major construction work and the supply of cash to banks and businesses. We need to develop new services, new businesses, new directions. But now, in the midst of the crisis, it is imperative that we keep as many people employed as possible and, at the same time, prevent our country from appearing dirty and abandoned.