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Society

Help Wanted: Greek Worker Shortages Hinder Economic Comeback

ATHENS – While tourism is spurring Greece’s economy with near record-busting numbers, it could be better but a shortage of more than 200,000 workers,  a quarter of them in the tourist sector, is holding back a faster recovery.

In a feature, China’s state-run English-language station CGTN noted that during the 2 1/2-year long and continuing COVID-19 pandemic that brought lockdowns and slowdowns, many tourist workers out of a job found other positions.

But businesses and companies across the board still need help, an ironic twist for a country that had the European Union’s highest unemployment during a 2010-18 economic and austerity crisis.

“We need an extra pair of hands and we are currently in the process of finding someone,” Stefanos Stathopoulos,who runs a yacht repair and maintenance business in Perama, south of Athens, told the station.

“This whole area is in need. Anywhere you ask there’s a job opening,” he said.

“But people tend to choose their jobs, especially after the pandemic. That’s a luxury. Look, if you really need money you’ll find a job. It seems that people have the luxury of a choice, and if it’s not what they like, they don’t work,” he said.

It’s most acute on popular islands where understaffed restaurants find waiters scampering between tables where the wait can be an hour to get your meal but there are shortages in other areas as well.

Greece turned to the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility to bring investments and funds to create minimum wage jobs, where salaries were lifted but there are still too few takers.

Thousands of Greeks are staying away from the minimum wage jobs – in retail stores, restaurants and construction,” the report noted, a reversal of the recent days when scores of thousands fled to other countries in search of jobs.

“I don’t mind working, as long the workplace respects me,” said Neoptolemos Kremmidas, who doesn’t have a job. “I’ll work anywhere, but I want to do it to have a life and not only survive,” he added.

Another in a similar position,  Spyros Mavropoulos, told the site that, “You can’t ask me to work for three or four euros an hour and expect me to do it. “I’m not skilled and say I agree to do the job, I won’t get the stamps, my sick days won’t be paid, and no holidays – why would I go, just to say I have a job?” referring to documents for other benefits.

“The conditions represent the minimum wage of our country, it’s simply horrible,” a woman identifed only as Maria, from Piraeus said of why there are so many in the same position.

“I feel despair. Why did I study all these years, so I can end up having a job that I would get paid the same money with someone that hasn’t even finished high school? What’s the point of going to university?”

Labor shortages are everywhere, from tourism and hospitality to construction and while the New Democracy government is pushing recruitment plans, Giorgos Stasinos, head of the Technical Chamber of Greece, said an attitude change is needed now.

“The government should change their approach and subsidize employment and not unemployment,” he said.

“Instead of collecting a welfare check for not working, to collect a check for working – to provide a motive for someone to find a job and once they do to reward them. The idea is not to create a culture of living off the state,” he said of the dilemma.

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