Greece: Latest working life developments – Q4 2017

The fall in the unemployment rate, combating undeclared work, one-off social benefit payments, initiatives to strengthen social dialogue, and a general strike over the 2018 budget are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Greece in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Fall in unemployment in 2017 and net job gains

According to figures published in December from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) for the third quarter of 2017, the unemployment rate fell to 20.2% from 21.1% in the second quarter of 2017, and from 22.6% in the third quarter of 2016. ELSTAT’s labour force survey also show that, in the third quarter of 2017, the number of employees was 3,823,705 with 970,062 people unemployed – the number of unemployed falling by 4.6% from the previous quarter, and by 11.2% in comparison with the same quarter in 2016.

In addition, data from ERGANI, the IT system of the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), show the net gains in salaried employment in 2017 to be the highest since 2001, with 143,535 new jobs created. However, part-time jobs predominate: it is calculated that fewer than 50% of jobs are full-time.

Actions to combat undeclared work

The Ministry of Labour is continuing its programme to combat undeclared work with the participation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the national social partners. In September 2017, the Ministry of Labour completed a pilot programme of targeted inspections in sectors with the highest levels of illegality using a specially developed risk analysis tool.

Under the programme, 1,667 inspections of businesses were carried out, with 452 of them discovering infringements. The checks covered 9,025 employees, of whom 920 (10.19%) were affected: 282 were undeclared and 638 partially declared employees – 535 of them working part-time or in a short-time working scheme. According to the Minister of Labour, this is less than in previous years. In October, and in cooperation with the social partners, the Ministry of Labour launched a campaign to raise school pupils’ awareness of undeclared work.

Social benefits for the economically disadvantaged

At the end of the year, with the primary surplus target of 1.75% of GDP for 2017 exceeded – as recorded in the introductory report of the 2018 budget – it was decided to distribute a single-payment social dividend to the least well-off, based on income, property criteria and family status.

The payment benefited 1,459,834 households with a total of 3,472,734 members (32% of the country’s population). The average dividend is estimated at €483 per household. In addition, a one-off youth solidarity allowance of €400 was granted to every person aged 18–24 years (around 55,000 potential beneficiaries), registered as unemployed and not entitled to benefits. It was decided to pay the allowance because most unemployed people in this age group have not worked enough to receive unemployment benefit.

SEV’s social dialogue initiatives on the future of work

The Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) launched a series of initiatives to strengthen, broaden and revitalise social dialogue between the state, employers and employees. The SEV held a conference on 24 October 2017, in which other social partners participated, on ‘The future of work after the memorandum’, with the aim of developing a public dialogue on the subject.

General strike

A general strike took place on 14 December 2017, organised by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Confederation (ADEDY). Their main demands, which related to the passing of the 2018 budget by the government, were:

  • an immediate reform of the budget;
  • no limitation of the right to strike;
  • respect on the part of the state and employers for the free exercise of trade-union activity by employees;
  • furtherance of social security with the guarantee of the state;
  • essential and effective measures to tackle unemployment;
  • no auction of debtor’s homes.

ADEDY additionally demanded that:

  • the Pension Act (Law 4387/2016) be abolished;
  • living wages and pensions be guaranteed;
  • the wage grid be unfrozen;
  • more permanent staff be recruited by employers.

Commentary

The third evaluation of the Greek programme was completed during the fourth quarter of 2017. The government, wishing to emphasise that it has a fair social policy in crisis conditions, distributed a one-off social dividend to the poorest sections of the population and unemployed young people. Furthermore, the employment balance is showing positive signs, although the percentage of flexible forms of work remains high.

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