EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

Final Questionnaire Comparative analytical report on Labour market transitions of young people

  • Observatory: EMCC
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 08 December 2013



About
Country:
Greece
Author:
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The crisis mainly affects young people up to 29 years of age, whose employment decreased by 108,440 persons (-12.7%), as seven out of ten workers who lost their job are mostly young men. Young workers in certain regions of Greece are facing particular challenges, as the unemployment rate is particularly high there. Memorandums 1, 2 and 3 about the country’s financial support abolish acquired rights and benefits of workers. As regards young people under 25 years of age, the new minimum salary is set at 510.95 Euros, while for blue-collar workers under 25 years of age the minimum wage is set at 22.83 Euros. In this context, the minimum salary for employees under 25 years of age shall be increased by 10% for three years of service and for accrued service of 3 years or more, while the minimum wage for blue-collar workers under 25 years of age shall be increased by 5% for each three-year period of service and up to two three-year periods, and by 10% in total for accrued service of 6 or more years. The Greek Government recently introduced the National Youth Employment Action Plan. It consists of twenty programs of EUR 600 million for 350,000 young people, which support innovative entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in the countryside and actions of social care and social work in the culture sector, and are intended exclusively for young people up to 35 years of age.

Background note

Youth unemployment has been a persistent problem in many parts of Europe for many years. Over the past 3-4 years, however, since the onset of the financial crisis and the economic recession which followed, it has become an even greater and more widespread problem and one which, given the on-going depressed state of the European economies, is likely to remain for some time to come. The latest monthly figures (for September 2012) show the unemployment rate of those aged 15-24 averaging 22.8% in the EU – just over 1 percentage point higher than at the time a year earlier. In Spain, the figure was over 54% and in Greece, 57%, in both cases, much higher than a year earlier. In the worst affected countries, therefore, as in most Member States, there is very little sign of any easing of the youth unemployment problem. There are, however, a few exceptions. In Germany, in particular, youth unemployment has declined since the global recession hit in 2009 and now stands at only 8%, well below the level it was before the recession. In Norway too, the rate is only 8%, though this is slightly above the level in 2007 before the crisis. Germany, apart, there are two other countries in the EU with youth unemployment below 10% according to the latest monthly figures - the Netherlands (9.4%) and Austria (9.9%). As in Norway, in both cases, the rate is above the pre-crisis level.

Moreover, young people who do manage to find jobs often have to settle for a temporary one, defined as one with a fixed-term contract of employment. According to the European Labour Force Survey (LFS), in 2011, just under 43% of employees under 25 were in temporary jobs in the EU and well over half in Germany (56%), France (55%), Portugal, (57%), Sweden (57%), Spain (63%), Poland (66%) and Slovenia (75%). (In Norway, the figure was much lower than in most EU countries, at around 24%.) While around 40% of the young people concerned on average were in temporary jobs because they had a fixed-term training contract and another 9% were on probationary contracts, a substantial proportion (37% on average) were in temporary jobs because they were unable to find permanent ones. In the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Portugal, this figure was over 75% and in Spain and Slovakia, well over 80%.

Among young people making the transition from education or initial vocational training into employment, the proportion who take up temporary rather than permanent jobs is much higher than for the age group as a whole. In 2011, 57% of those aged 15-24 in employment who were in education the previous year were in temporary jobs in the EU and 86-87% in Spain, Portugal and Poland. For those moving from unemployment into employment, the proportion who take up temporary jobs is even higher on average in the EU (61%) as well as in Spain (90%).

The fact that a relatively large proportion of young people in employment are in temporary jobs may be a reason why they have been hit disproportionately hard by the crisis. In the economic downturn in 2009, many of the people who lost their jobs first were on fixed-term contracts since not renewing these contracts represented the easiest way for employers to reduce their work forces. In 2009, therefore, there was some decline across Europe in the proportion of young people in work employed in temporary jobs (see the Tables attached to the questionnaire). Since then, there has been some tendency for the proportion to increase again, in part perhaps because employers are reluctant to take on people on permanent - or standard – contracts given the uncertainty about future economic prospects.

Given the above, it is understandable that there is growing public interest, and some concern, over the nature of the jobs that young people are taking up. This concern is mirrored at EU-level where a ‘flexicurity’ approach to labour market policy has increasingly been advocated, which, in practice, means that while flexibility is an important objective, it needs to be accompanied by protection of workers’ interests if it is not to lead to a growth of precarious employment in low quality jobs. Accordingly, there is a need to obtain a better understanding of the terms and conditions applying to temporary jobs, the extent to which they are a stepping stone to permanent jobs and a working career in line with a person’s qualifications and capabilities, the access to social protection which comes with them and the measures in place to encourage employers to convert them into more stable jobs. These issues form the focus of the present study.

Definition of temporary jobs

The interest in the study is in all young people employed in temporary jobs of whatever kind, in the sense of all jobs that they are not subject to a standard contract of employment which is normally one of indeterminate length, or at least one for which no specific length is specified. Such temporary jobs can be for a period of training (i.e. traineeships or apprenticeships) or probation, intended to enable employers to check the suitability or aptitude of people for the jobs concerned. They might also be to replace someone on maternity leave or on a training programme or they might relate to a specific project of fixed duration.

All such jobs and others which are of fixed duration should be covered, whether they are part-time or full-time and irrespective of whether they are specifically for young people (such as perhaps in the case of traineeships or apprenticeships) or for people of all ages which young people happen to be doing. In some cases, it should be noted, it is relevant to include, in addition, to temporary employees, the ‘bogus’ self-employed – i.e. those people who have self-employment status but who are contracted to work for a single employer and who are effectively similar to employees who have a fixed-term contract of employment. (The cases in question relate to instances where employers use self-employment contracts as a means of employing young people without bearing the costs, and obligations, of a standard contract of employment.)

Outline of study

The study is divided in three sections. The first is concerned with the main types of job in which young people who are employed under temporary contracts work and the reasons why employers choose to use temporary contracts of employment instead of standard ones when they take on young people, as well as with the link, if any, with labour market conditions (i.e. with the extent to which the crisis has led to an increase in temporary employment). The starting point is the data summarised above, derived from the LFS, which indicate the relative number of young people employed on temporary contracts in the different European countries and the way that this has changed over the recent past (these data, as noted, are set out in the tables attached to the questionnaire). Correspondents are asked to check these data against any national data on temporary employment and to indicate where these show a different picture from the LFS data, perhaps because a different definition is adopted of temporary jobs.

Any description or commentary on national statistics should, however, remain brief, since the main task of the first section, is to review and summarise relevant sources of information on the different kinds of temporary contract under which young people are employed in each of the countries, the circumstances and areas (the types of job and the sectors of activity) in which they tend to be used and the main reasons why employers adopt them.

The second section is concerned with the access to social benefits which temporary jobs provide, distinguishing between the various kinds of benefit, and with the extent to which entitlement to benefit differs for young people employed in temporary jobs from that for those employed under standard contracts of employment. It should be emphasised that the concern is not only with the formal regulations which apply, which in many if not most countries do not make a formal distinction between temporary jobs and others, but also with de facto entitlement which stems from the nature of temporary employment. In particular, young people in temporary jobs may have difficulty in complying with the need to have a continuous period in employment, or a continuous record of paying social contributions, in order to be eligible for unemployment benefit.

The third section is concerned with the measures in place to regulate the use of temporary contracts of employment (such as specifying the number of times they can be renewed), with the attitudes of government and the social partners towards their use and with the incentives which exist to encourage the wider use of standard contracts of employment and the conversion of temporary jobs into permanent ones. A particular point of interest is the extent to which regulations and attitudes as regards temporary jobs have changed over the crisis period as the number of jobs available for young people to take up has diminished and as expanding these has become a policy priority.

A final point to note is that while it is customary to define youth employment (and unemployment) in terms of those aged 15-24, it is also the case that many of those aged 25-29 are also employed in temporary jobs, as indicated in the attached tables. Correspondents are therefore asked to extend the coverage of the study to this age group where relevant. It is recognised that in some countries the statistics available may not relate precisely to the age groups specified here, in which case correspondents should report on the age groups nearest to these.

QUESTIONNAIRE

1. Importance of temporary employment for young people

1.1. Do the figures shown in the attached tables (on the number of temporary employed as a % of total employees based on Eurostat LFS data) give a reliable indication of the scale of temporary employment among the young in your country and the way that it has changed over recent years? Are there young people employed in temporary jobs who do not show up in the Eurostat figures? Are there national statistics which show a different picture from the Eurostat data? If so, please indicate what they show and give the source of the data.

The figures shown in the attached tables give a reliable indication of the average percentage/per year of temporary employment among young people in Greece. More analytically, the economic crisis has significantly aggravated the situation of all the workers – and young workers in particular– in Greece’s labour market, due to the increase in unemployment and also the increase of flexible forms of employment. Unemployment is probably the most serious problem that young people in Greece are facing; especially following the repercussions of the financial crisis in the country the rate of unemployment among young people in Greece is one of the highest in Europe and much higher than the overall rate of unemployment in the country. According to official statistical data seven out of ten persons that lost their employment are young people up to 29 years of age, mostly young men, whose participation corresponds to 3/4 of the total change among young people. The crisis mainly affects young people up to 29 years of age, whose employment decreased by 108,440 persons (-12.7%), as seven out of ten workers who lost their job are mostly young men. Young workers in certain regions of Greece are facing particular challenges, as the unemployment rate is particularly high there. More specifically, according to Eurostat data, in certain regions of Greece, total unemployment is higher than the country’s average and in those regions youth unemployment is equally high. For instance, the unemployment among young people (15-24) is 35.2% in Western Macedonia, 34.2% in Epirus, and 31.5% in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace.

The most recent data (see Table 1) illustrate the comparison between the permanent and temporary employment respectively in the years 2008-2012, while Chart 1 shows the employment and the employment rate of young people up to 24 years of age in the four quarters of each year from 2008 to 2012.

Table 1: Permanent and Temporary employment of Young People up to 24 years of age, 2008-2012

 

PERMANENT (in thousands)

TEMPORARY %

 

A Quarter

B Quarter

C Quarter

D Quarter

.

A Quarter

B Quarter

C Quarter

D Quarter

2008

146,3

153,4

148,3

149,8

27,6

29

30,9

29,2

2009

147,7

143,9

145,8

133,3

28,6

27,7

28,7

28,4

2010

125,6

121,5

114,9

107,9

29,0

30,3

31,6

31,1

2011

99,1

90,7

87,5

82,6

30,4

29,9

30,8

29,0

2012

80,2

76,7

71,0

:

25,0

26,3

25,5

:

Source: General Secretariat of the Hellenic Statistical Authority, Labour Force Survey 2008-2012

Elaboration: Labour Institute/GSEE-ADEDY (G. Kritikidis)

up to 24 years of age, 2008-2012

1.2. Is there any evidence that other forms of employment are used as a substitute for temporary contracts, such as bogus self-employment where young people are contracted to provide services to a single work provider in a continuous manner so acting de facto as employees? If so, please give the source of the evidence and indicate the scale of the phenomenon in terms of the number of people concerned.

Although there is no official data, the phenomenon of temporary employment among young people in Greece is accompanied by the generalized trend of work contracts, which constitute a pretext for paid work, as well as that of pseudo self-employment (internships, for example). The quantitative research ("Labour and Unions", June-July 2008) conducted by VPRC on behalf of the GSEE in the form of questionnaires, using a sample of 1,296 persons nationwide, demonstrates the existence of a percentage of approx. 9% (of salaried employees who work under a work contract or a freelance services contract issuing a fee invoice) who claim to work on a constant basis in some sort of business, despite the fact that they are stated as working in some kind of flexible job (including temporary employment). According to data from the same survey, temporary employment for young people between 18 and 24 years of age is set at 4%, while for people between 25 and 34 years of age, at 12%.

1.3. Please list (and give summary details, i.e. purpose and duration of the contract) the most common contract types or contractual arrangements under which young people are employed on a temporary basis (such as for traineeships, apprenticeships, probationary periods, replacement of workers on leave or projects of a fixed duration). What is the relative importance of each type of contract or arrangement in terms of the number of young people employed under them?

Flexible forms of employment such as part-time employment, temporary employment, uninsured labour, contracts for the rendering of services are issues that nowadays, following the severe economic crisis, concern the entirety of workers in Greece, regardless of age, a report issued by the Labour Inspectorate (SEPE) on developments in employment contracts during the first four months of 2012 showed that 46% of new contracts in the private sector were for flexible forms of work such as part-time work and work rotation. The recruitment of new employees in the private sector, taking into account all categories of workers, decreased by 8% (14,802 fewer jobs) compared with the same period in 2011. Compared with the corresponding period in 2010, the recruitment of full-time workers decreased by 67,303, a drop of more than 44%, of the 156,805 newly recruited employees, 72,217 were hired under flexible employment contracts (54,964 for part-time work and 17,253 on a work rotation basis), and the remaining 84,588 were hired for full-time employment. More specifically, compared with the first four months of 2011, the conversion of full-time employment contracts to flexible forms of employment increased by 47% (4,909 changes) switched to part-time employment, about 7% (513 changes) changed to work rotation with the agreement of the employee, 169% (3,328 changes) work rotation contracts imposed by the employer’s unilateral decision.

At legislative level, enacted a special employment regime for minor and young workers. More specifically, the law provides for a reduction of the minimum wage paid to workers under 25 years of age to 84% of the minimum wage and a reduction of the minimum wage paid to minors of 15-18 years of age to 70% of the minimum wage. As regards the main forms of temporary employment for young people between 18 and 24 years of age and the duration of these contracts, they are listed in detail in the tables below.

Table 2: Total duration of temporary contract 2008-2012

YEAR

2008

2012

2008-2012

2008-2012 (%)

Less than a month

3,109

1,163

-1,946

-62.6%

1 to 3 months

6,153

4,261

-1,892

-30.7%

4 to 6 months

13,420

10,104

-3,316

-24.7%

7 to 12 months

20,746

5,511

-15,235

-73.4%

13 to 18 months

6,444

2,757

-3,687

-57.2%

19 to 24 months

4,723

1,381

-3,342

-70.8%

25 to 36 months

3,836

761

-3,075

-80.2%

More than 36 months

4,174

1,364

-2,810

-67.3%

Total

62,606

27,301

-35,305

-56.4%

Source: General Secretariat of the Hellenic Statistical Authority, Employment Performance Indicators 2008,2012 Β΄ Trimester

Elaboration: Labour Institute/GSEE-ADEDY (G. Kritikidis)

Table 3: Percentage participation (frequency) of the duration of the temporary contracts 2008-2012
 

Frequency

Cumulative Percent

YEAR

2008

2012

2008

2012

Less than a month

5.0

4.3

5.0

4.3

1 to 3 months

9.8

15.6

14.8

19.9

4 to 6 months

21.4

37.0

36.2

56.9

7 to 12 months

33.1

20.2

69.4

77.1

13 to 18 months

10.3

10.1

79.7

87.2

19 to 24 months

7.5

5.1

87.2

92.2

25 to 36 months

6.1

2.8

93.3

95.0

More than 36 months

6.7

5.0

100.0

100.0

Total

100.0

100.0

   

Source: General Secretariat of the Hellenic Statistical Authority, Employment Performance Indicators 2008 2012 Β΄ Trimester

Elaboration: Labour Institute/GSEE-ADEDY (G. Kritikidis)

Table 4: Reasons why they work under a temporary contract or a fixed-term contract 2008-2012

YEAR

2008

2012

2008-2012

2008-2012 (%)

He/She is an intern or a trainee

11,244

5,443

-5,801

-51.6%

He/She couldn't find permanent work

37,847

15,518

-22,329

-59.0%

He/She does not wish to find a more permanent job

1,468

1,034

-434

-29.6%

He/She has a contract that covers a trial period

3,421

2,096

-1,325

-38.7%

He/She has not defined why

8,625

3,210

-5,415

-62.8%

Total

62,606

27,301

-35,305

-56.4%

Source: General Secretariat of the Hellenic Statistical Authority, Employment Performance Indicators 2008,2012 Β΄ Trimester

Elaboration: Labour Institute/GSEE-ADEDY (G. Kritikidis)

Table 5: Percentage participation (frequency) of the reason why they work under a temporary contract or a fixed-term contract 2008-2012
 

Frequency

Cumulative Percent

YEAR

2008

2012

2008

2012

He/She is a trainee or intern

18.0

19.9

18.0

19.9

He/She couldn't find permanent work

60.5

56.8

78.4

76.8

He/She does not wish to find a more permanent job

2.3

3.8

80.8

80.6

He/She has a contract that covers a trial period

5.5

7.7

86.2

88.2

He/She has not defined why

13.8

11.8

100.0

100.0

Total

100.0

100.0

   

Source: General Secretariat of the Hellenic Statistical Authority, Employment Performance Indicators 2008,2012 Β΄ Trimester

Elaboration: Labour Institute/GSEE-ADEDY (G. Kritikidis)

Finally, please notice that the most sought after specialties for temporary employment are: Sales, Customer Service, Call Centres - Arrears Management, Secretarial Support, IT, Finance".

1.4. Please indicate the main reasons for the emergence and development of the different types of temporary contract which you have listed in response to question 1.3. To what extent are they linked to particular conditions in the labour market or employment protection legislation/regulation in your country? What is the main attraction of such contracts to employers? What effect has the crisis had on the use of such contracts?

The data from the Union of Temporary Employment Companies{companies whose object is the provision of work by their employees to another employer (indirect employer) in the form of temporary employment, that is, for a limited period of time by an employee, who is linked to his/her employer (direct employer) with a contract or a fixed-term or open-ended employment relationship} and the corresponding European EUROCIETT (2010), shows that temporary work in Greece has a low degree of penetration - just 0.2% of the workforce.

Before the crisis, temporary work was at 80% for new jobs that were created in order to meet the seasonal needs of some businesses (in tourist areas such as Greece, temporary work is a dominant form of employment during the summer months), to carry out projects of a predefined duration that require specialized personnel, or to replace permanent officials for a specified period of time.

During the financial crisis, the rise of unemployment in this age group, as well as the lack of full-time jobs, forces more and more young people to choose this specific type of employment as a means of integration into the labour market. However, it should be noted that according to the most recent data by the Hellenic Statistical Authority, there is a drop in temporary employment rates by 56.4%, which can be due to the unfavourable situation of the majority of Greek enterprises (98% of which are SMEs) as the financial crisis and the harsh conditions of the Memoranda resulted in a lack of liquidity and a decline in consumer demand, with a correlative effect on demand of paid employment even in the form of flexible employment.

Temporary employment contracts are covered by a series of regulations such as:

Law No. 3986/2011 of the medium-term fiscal strategy framework establishes the following, among other measures: 1) conversion of fixed-term employment contracts into open-ended contracts. By virtue of article 40, all fixed-term employment contracts that include the condition that they can be terminated before the expiry of the corresponding payment of the compensation laid down in Law 2112/1920, are automatically converted into open-ended employment contracts upon termination. The above is interpreted as allowing the party that prematurely denounces a fixed-term contract (before the expiry of the agreed time) not to pay compensation to the other party, since its conversion into an open-ended contract under the law would permit the implementation of the provision laid down in par. 5, article 17 of Law 3899/2010, which states that "for the first 12 months, open-ended employment contracts are considered as trial contracts and are terminated without notice and without compensation"). Article 41 shall replace article 3 of the PD 180/2004 that refers to renewals of fixed-term employment contracts, and stipulates that "the unrestricted renewal of fixed-term employment contracts is permitted if justified by an objective reason" and then mentions a series of such reasons.The reasons that justify such a renewal must be mentioned in the written texts that are required for the validity of such contracts. It is defined that these renewals, even though they are justified, must not exceed three (3) years in total, together with the initial renewal (instead of 2 laid down in the previous provision) since in this case it is presumed that they conceal open-ended employment contracts. The same thing will happen if the renewals exceed three (3), regardless of their duration. The re-hiring of an employee under a fixed-term contract 45 days after the expiry of the previous one, is considered a new contract and not a renewal; therefore, the issuance of a new working card by the Manpower Employment Organization (OAED) and the re-inscription of the employee in the book of newly-employed people of IKA, is required.

In the same context, the milestone for Greece and Temporary Employment Companies was the adoption of Law 2956/2001 that led to the creation of the context in which it is feasible to provide this flexible form of work, while legitimizing the generalized action of these companies. In 2010, Law 3845/2010 that redefines some of the provisions laid down in Law 2956/2001, is passed, while under Law 3899/2010 the maximum allowed duration of temporary employment is defined once again. Therefore, out of the 12 months that it is valid till then (or 18 months, in the case of a renewal), the duration of employment of the employee by the indirect employer is increased to 36 months including any renewals within this interval. Finally, the current operational status of Temporary Employment Companies is governed by the recent law 4052/2012, which adapts the provisions of Directive 2008/104/EC to the Greek law.

Finally, companies from all sectors, regardless of their object of activity, choose temporary employment because of the flexibility that it offers as a service. The sectors in which the supply of staff is a constant necessity are: financial, telecommunications, information technology, health services, industry and tourism. One of the main reasons for this choice is the reduction in employer costs: People who work under a temporary employment contract offer directly to concrete projects or reduce the amount of work without there being an increase in payroll expenses and overtime costs for the employer. In parallel, an important incentive is the coverage of part of the employers' contributions or the total cost of the payroll for all the subsidized years, as well as the subsidy of insurance contributions by 70-80%.

1.5. To what extent are temporary contracts a ‘stepping stone’ to ‘permanent’ jobs (or those with standard contracts of employment of undefined duration)? Are apprentices and trainees typically taken on by the companies or other organisations concerned on standard permanent contracts once they complete their training? Has the situation changed over the crisis period? Please summarise any relevant studies which have been carried out in your country or other evidence at the national level which exists and give the reference to them.

According to publications by the Union of Private Employment Companies (2011-2013), as temporary employment is used as the implementation of a trial period for workers destined for permanent jobs, this phenomenon in itself justifies the fact that over 30% of these trial periods are converted into permanent partnerships every year, depending on the correctness of the selection and evaluation of the performance of an employee who is required to meet the specific needs of the employer (Temporary Employment: A Levee in Crisis, HR Professional Online, April 2011, Temporary Employment: Flexibility Selection, HR Professional Online, March 2013).

2. Access to social benefits

Memorandums 1, 2 and 3 about the country’s financial support abolish acquired rights and benefits of workers. In brief: Replacement of the 13th and 14th salary of public servants with a 500 euro allowance for those receiving a salary of up to 3,000 euro and complete elimination of the two salaries for those receiving higher salaries, replacement of the 13th and 14 pension payment with an 800 euro allowance for pensions up to 2,500 euro and an 8% cut on the allowances of public servants and 3% on the allowances of employees of Public Corporations and Organisations where there are no allowances. The draft law also stipulated changes in labour issues with an increase of the termination threshold and decrease of the basic salary (Μνημόνιο 1); Α drastic nominal reduction of the minimum wage by 22% since February 2012 whereas for workers under the age of 25, the reduction was as high as 32%. This reduction was imposed by an Act of Cabinet, despite the fact that, at that time, the last three-year National General Collective Labour Agreement 2010–2012, concluded in 2010 by all the social partners, was still in force (Μνημόνιο 2); Cancellation of the crucial role of the recognised national social partners in the shaping of Greek industrial relation, through the EGSSE (Memorandum 3).

As regards young people under 25 years of age, the new minimum salary is set at 510.95 Euros, while for blue-collar workers under 25 years of age the minimum wage is set at 22.83 Euros. In this context, the minimum salary for employees under 25 years of age shall be increased by 10% for three years of service and for accrued service of 3 years or more, while the minimum wage for blue-collar workers under 25 years of age shall be increased by 5% for each three-year period of service and up to two three-year periods, and by 10% in total for accrued service of 6 or more years.

2.1. Does entitlement of young people to (contributory) unemployment insurance benefits and (non-contributory) unemployment assistance (i.e. benefits, usually means-tested, which provide a minimum level of income) differ if they are employed on temporary contracts as opposed to permanent ones? If so, please indicate briefly the differences in eligibility conditions and any differences between types of temporary contract (including those working as self-employed for a single employer). Have there been any changes over the period of the crisis?

According to L. 3986/2011 all salaried employees regardless of their age (under full-time, part-time or temporary employment contracts), whose employment contract has expired and was terminated by the employer, and have been insured in the unemployment sector of OAED, are entitled to an OAED unemployment allowance. Of course, one should highlight the objective difficulty of a temporarily employed person to meet all the necessary requirements.

If the unemployed person is subsidized for the first time: he/she must have completed 80 days of work per year, in the two years prior to his/her subsidy. However, in the last 14 months, he/she must have gathered 125 working days, without counting the salaries for the last two months. An unemployment allowance is also payable to an insured person who has completed 200 days of work in the last two years prior to his/her dismissal (not counting the salaries for the last two months), of which at least 80 days must have been completed in each year.

If he/she is applying for the second time: He/She must have worked 125 working days in the last 14 months before the dismissal without counting the salaries for the last two months.

For employees in tourism or even seasonal professions e.g. musicians, actors, etc., 100 working days in the last 12 months shall suffice.

However, because of the continuing recession in Greece, there is also an additional measure, since an allowance is paid to young unemployed people between 20-29 years old, as long as they are unemployed and remain registered in the registers of unemployed persons for a year.The allowance amounts to 73,37 EUROS a month and it is paid for five months. According to the conditions, they need to have completed their 20th year of age or obtained a degree or been dismissed from the army, while the deadline for submitting an application is three months from the completion of their 20th year of age or their graduation or dismissal from the army.

2.2. Does entitlement of young people to sickness benefits and maternity benefits differ if they are employed on temporary contracts as opposed to permanent ones? If so, please indicate briefly the differences in eligibility conditions and any differences between types of temporary contract (including those working as self-employed for a single employer). Have there been any changes over the period of the crisis?

All salaried employees, either under permanent or temporary employment contracts, are entitled to sickness benefits and maternity benefits, if they meet the requirements. Just like in unemployment allowances, one must highlight the objective difficulty of a temporarily employed person to meet all the necessary conditions.

Therefore: IKA provides sickness allowances directly to the insured individuals who have completed at least 100 days of insurance in the year prior to the announcement of the sickness or in the previous 15-month period, which does not count the insurance days of the last trimester. For employees in construction jobs these days are reduced to 80.

As regards the maternity benefit, IKA-ETAM subsidizes directly insured women (either under a permanent or temporary employment contract) for 56 days before the birth and 63 days after childbirth. In order to qualify for these allowances, they must have completed 200 days of work in the two years prior to the potential or actual day of birth and they must not be working at the time of the subsidy.

It should be noted that the situation changed on 1/1/2012 regarding the childbirth allowance in accordance with the regulation of the new health benefit organization, EOPYY. More specifically, pregnant mothers who chose to give birth in a public or a private hospital that has concluded an agreement with their health fund, will not collect the amount (as they used to do before), since the insurance fund will directly cover the costs. Pregnant women who choose private maternity hospitals that have not concluded an agreement with their health fund, will receive 900 euros for the birth of one child, 1,200 euros in case of twins and 1,600 euros for triplets. In these cases, the aid will be paid as a lump sum amounts instead of obstetrics care.

2.3. Are there any differences in the entitlement of young people to old-age pensions between those employed in temporary jobs as opposed to permanent ones? If so, please indicate what these are. Have conditions of eligibility to pensions changed over the period of the crisis (including through pension reforms introduced as part of a long-term strategy to improve the financial sustainability of the system)?

There are no differences between permanent and temporary employment as regards the right to basic retirement, provided that applicants have completed 67 years of age and 4,500 working days (if they were registered with the insurance carrier for the first time since 1 January 1993) while, for those who had been insured before 1 January 1993, the limit is 65 years of age and 4,500 social security stamps. However, one should highlight the objective difficulty of a temporarily employed person to meet all the necessary requirements.

2.4. Are there any differences in entitlement of young people to health care between those employed in temporary jobs as opposed to permanent ones? If so, please indicate what these are. Have conditions of eligibility to health care changed over the period of the crisis?

Medical insurance, as well as the right of access to the Greek health care system, is offered to employees that are either under a permanent or a temporary employment contract, provided that they meet the requirements. So, for example, OAED provides: a) medical, pharmaceutical and hospital insurance to unemployed individuals aged up to 29 years of age, if they have been registered in the OAED unemployment registers for at least two consecutive months, b) medical and hospital insurance to unemployed individuals between 29 and 55 years of age, if they have been registered in the OAED unemployment registers for at least 12 months. Moreover, they must have completed 600 working days, which are increased by one hundred days every year, after the completion of the 30th year of age up to the 54th year of age, in any insurance organization.It should be noted that in the first 2 age categories, the right is not inexhaustible; it is inexhaustible for only 4 semesters and only for people over 55.

Recently, the prolonged financial crisis led the Greek government to the decision to cover the hospitalization and medication costs for workers who have at least 50 working days with stamps, as provided for by a regulation of the Ministry of Labour. Employees of IKA-ETAM or even the currently unemployed, should have completed a minimum of 50 days of insurance either last year in 2012, or in the last 15-month period. Of course, just like in the previous sections, one should highlight the objective difficulty of a temporarily employed person to meet all the necessary requirements.

3. Regulation of temporary contracts and policies to support transitions into permanent contracts

3.1. Please describe briefly the regulations applying to the main types of temporary contract in your country. Do restrictions exist on the maximum duration of the different types of temporary contract for young workers or the number of times they can be renewed? Do these regulations differ by age (i.e. between young people and older workers) and/or by type of temporary contract (as mentioned in question 1.3), by occupation, or by sector of activity? Do special regulations exist for those completing apprenticeships or traineeships? Have the regulations changed over the period of the crisis – i.e. has there been a tendency for them to have been tightened or relaxed?

As mentioned in the previous section, temporary employment (fixed-term contracts) has been governed since 1920 by a series of laws and presidential decrees where, initially, in accordance with article 8, par.3 of L. 2112/1920, the provisions on the compulsory termination of employment contracts of employees are applied by means of exception on fixed-term contracts, when their definition is not justified by the type and nature of work, but was deliberately done in order to circumvent the provisions of labour law on compulsory termination and damages. This happens in cases of successive fixed-term contracts, concluded so that the employer can avoid the payment of compensation to the employee, in case of a dismissal; therefore, it is considered to be a single work contract of an indefinite duration. Law 3986/2011 of the medium-term fiscal strategy framework gives a longer period – 36 months or three renewals - in the conclusion of fixed-term contracts, without the "establishment of the worker" (unlike what was valid after 24 months of continuous work and two renewals of fixed-term contracts, where the contract of an employee was converted to an open-ended contract)

The milestone for Greece and Temporary Employment Companies was the adoption of Law 2956/2001 that led to the creation of the context in which it is feasible to provide this flexible form of work (through the lending of workers), while legitimizing the generalized action of these Temporary Employment Companies. In 2010, Law 3845/2010 that redefines some of the provisions laid down in Law 2956/2001, is passed, while under Law 3899/2010 the maximum allowed duration of temporary employment is defined once again. Therefore, out of the 8 months that it was valid till then (with the possibility to renew for 8 more and 2 months further, until the contract is turned into an open-ended contract - total of 18 months) the duration of employment of the employee by the indirect employer is increased to 36 months including any renewals within this interval.

3.2. Do incentives exists in your country to encourage employers to opt for standard rather than temporary contracts of employment, to convert temporary contracts into permanent ones or to make it easier for employees to move from temporary to permanent contracts? If so, please briefly describe the form that these incentives take. Do they apply equally to young people as well as to older workers? Are any incentives in place to encourage employers to take on young people who have completed an apprenticeship or traineeship on permanent contracts? Have there been any changes to incentives over the period of the crisis? Are any such changes being proposed or being actively discussed at present in your country?

In Greece, there are programs destined for the hiring of young unemployed individuals and long-term unemployed persons, with the aim of extending their stay in employment through incentives given to the employer, such as subsidizing wage costs, reducing insurance premiums, etc.

The Greek Government recently introduced the National Youth Employment Action Plan (as the unemployment rate in our country has skyrocketed to 26% and, especially that of young people, to 57.6% in September 2012). The Plan consists of twenty programs, the most important of which is the subvention of companies in order for them to hire 45.000 unemployed individuals up to 29 years of age of EUR 600 million for 350,000 young people, which support innovative entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in the countryside and actions of social care and social work in the culture sector, and are intended exclusively for young people up to 35 years of age.

In this case, the important elements, among others, are the incentives given to companies in order to turn the internship-temporary employment contract into labour contracts. These incentives include the coverage of employers' contributions for one year, for businesses that will transform the practice into a work contract, or subsidies given to businesses that will transform the practice into an employment contract, with the coverage of employers' contributions for one year.

The key objective of the Action Plan is to promote specific policies and measures for the development of employment and entrepreneurship among young people of two age categories, namely 15- 24 and 25- 35, in Greece, placing particular emphasis on the following thematic priority axes:

• Job Creation for young people according to their qualifications; Strengthening of vocational education and training and apprenticeship systems, with emphasis on the combination of training and work experience, and further investment in work placements and traineeships during and after training; Establishment of systematic school-to-work programmes, so as to support the acquisition of first work experience (combining mentoring, counseling, training and employment), tailored to the specific profile and needs of unemployed youth; Strengthening of counseling and vocational guidance with emphasis on unemployed youth. Strengthening of vocational guidance at school, career guidance and counseling for entrepreneurship in higher education; Strengthening of youth entrepreneurship, focusing on new / innovative products, services and areas of entrepreneurship; Investing in measures aimed at reducing the number of school dropouts.

The programs that will be implemented will be financed by the European Social Fund, the NSRF and the European Regional Development Fund. In the context of the Action Plan, 746,679,192 euros are already available for 182,812 beneficiaries.

At the same time, the Manpower Employment Organization (OAED) announced a new scheme for the “acquisition of work experience” through the employment of 10,000 unemployed persons of 16 to 24 years of age entering the labour market. The said scheme is differentiated as follows vis-à-vis previous schemes for the acquisition of work experience: it is addressed only to private sector enterprises, it provides for a wage and insurance for beneficiaries, it has a specific duration (6-12 months), only young people of 16-24 years of age are eligible for participation. OAED grants a subsidy corresponding to 100% of the employers and employees social security contributions for the pension sector, the sickness insurance sector and the occupational hazard sector of the Social Security Fund (IKA-ETAM), whereas employers pay to young people with whom they enter into an agreement for the acquisition of work experience a wage corresponding to 80% of the minimum monthly wage or day wage. The subsidy scheme lasts 12 months and provides strong incentives for an extension for a further twelve-month period, following a conversion of the agreement for the acquisition of work experience to an employment agreement.

The “special two-year programme for the promotion of employment, through the subsidy of social security contributions for the recruitment of 25,000 unemployed persons”, which is implemented under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, managed by the OAED and co-financed by the European Social Fund, aims at creating new full-time or part-time jobs for young people of up to 30 years of age (including NEETs) and special groups of unemployed (unemployed who are close to the age limit for retirement, long-term unemployed women, parents of many children, single parents). The programme’s objective is to create new jobs through the subsidy of part of the wage cost and non-wage cost that corresponds to the amount of social security contributions, which are calculated based on the emoluments that correspond to the minimum wage, as determined each time by the National General Collective Employment Agreement, in private enterprises. The term of the subsidy will be 24 months. After the expiry of the subsidy, enterprises are obliged to maintain their personnel for a further 12-month period.

3.3. Is the employment of young people on temporary contracts an important issue of concern for the social partners? Are there strong differences in attitudes and policies between employers and trade unions towards the use of temporary contracts? Have any initiatives been taken by the social partners, either jointly or separately, to encourage the use of permanent rather than temporary contracts? Have any specific initiatives been taken in respect of young people completing apprenticeships or traineeships over the types of job they are offered when their temporary position comes to an end?

Unions react to the widespread use, as they call it, of the temporary employment trend (through lending, pseudo-employment and employment that in fact covers fixed and enduring needs), as well as to all types of flexible employment, as they indicate that these practices lead to an even greater deregulation of the labour market and to a compression of the already low labour costs, enhancing labour segmentation by creating "multiple speed workers" and sacrificing workers' rights for the sake of the "competitiveness" of the companies. The model of economy and employment, for trade unions, includes decent wages, full and stable employment, safe and humane working conditions for the entire workforce, where wage and labour flexibility or deregulation are not dominant.

In this context, they denounce such "inadequate laws", considering that the lengthening of the period of employment (from 24 to 36 months for fixed-term contracts and from 12 to 36 months through Temporary Employment Companies) as negative, since they are presumed to conceal an employment relationship, increasing precarious situations at work. In fact, in a letter by the GSEE, the Union raises the immediate need for constant interventions to enhance the protection of the workers as a result of this reality that creates the conditions (particularly through the legalization of Temporary Employment Companies) for the extensive violation of labour legislation.

The Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) has established a special Secretariat for young workers that deals with the situation experienced by young workers (including aspects such as part-time and temporary employment, uninsured labour and deregulation of the labour market), taking actions and initiatives to place emphasis on those issues. The Secretariat of Young Workers also represents the GSEE before entities which it is a member of, such as the National Youth Council (ESYN) and the Youth of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC); takes initiatives in Greece and in Europe; co-operates with other youth organizations and networks so that there be an exchange of views and opinions, which helps in acquiring a better knowledge of modern working conditions and in finding effective solutions; co-operates with the other Secretariats of the Greek General Confederation of Labour on matters concerning young people; is in constant contact with young students, immigrants, unemployed, etc.; promotes the participation of young people to the trade-union training programs implemented by the GSEE.

Katerina Harissi, Elena Kousta, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Add new comment