Despite 18 months of pay cuts, wage hikes, and slashed pensions, a $157 billion bailout – and now forgiveness of half of its new debt – Greece’s unemployment rate has reached 17.6 percent, the second highest in the European Union, and shows little signs of abating, according to data from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office in Luxembourg.
The figures were for July, but Greece’s national statistics agency ELSTAT put the rate at 16.5%, about a half-percent jump from the month earlier. Union officials predicted that it won’t be long before 1 million Greeks in a country of 11 million people are without work as the austerity measures have created a deep recession.
Unions say the real number of unemployed is much higher and warn that the overall rate will likely exceed 20 per cent next year. Women also continued to see fewer job opportunities than men, with the number of unemployed women at 20.3% in July, compared with 15.7% a year earlier. By region, the highest unemployment rate was in central Greece where the jobless rate was 22.7% in July, up sharply from 14.3% a year earlier. In the Attica region, the province that includes Athens and is home to about half the country΄s population, unemployment was 17.4% in July, up from a 15.8% rate in June, and also well above 13.3% rate a year earlier. The lowest unemployment rate was recorded in the islands of the north Aegean where Greece΄s traditional summer tourist season helped restrain joblessness at a 7.5% rate in July.
Only Spain, with a 22 percent unemployment rate, is worse off in the 27 EU countries, but Greece’s economic crisis – the country is technically bankrupt and relying on loans from the EU-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank to keep paying workers and pensioners – is threatening to throw more people into the jobless lines. Greece’s unemployment rose in the summer despite a 10 percent increase in tourism. The figures were sharply higher than the same period in 2010, when it stood at 12 percent. There are now about 820,000 people out of work, an increase of 213,000 in a year.
“The pace of decline in employment in basic sectors of the economy, such as construction, retail and wholesale trade, could not be mitigated from seasonal hiring in tourism,” Nikos Magginas, an economist with the National Bank of Greece, told Reuters. “Year on year, we have seen a big rise in unemployment and that shows that the dynamics of the labor market are continuing to deteriorate very, very quickly,” said Nikos Magginas, a senior economist at the National Bank of Greece. “We are seeing no signs of a slowdown and it confirms some of the worst-case scenarios for the job market this year.”Magginas said he expected the jobless rate to rise by the end of the year. The young continue to be the hardest hit, with the jobless rate in the 15-24 category soaring to 42 percent, twice its level three years ago.
The Greek economy is seeing shrinking for a fourth consecutive year, at an annual pace of 5.5 percent. The EU and IMF said they don’t expect a recovery for two years. Despite the dire numbers, the international lenders have insisted Greece keep implementing austerity measures, and layoffs, some 30,000 now and as much as 90,000 more in the public sector, which will keep driving unemployment higher. The government said it expects the economy, drowning in $460 billion in debt, to shrink 5.5 percent this year, up from earlier optimistic estimates of 3.8 percent.
(Sources: Kathimerini, Reuters, Capital.Gr)