Tag Archives: Unemployment

Talking with the taxi driver about economics

taxi_harry“Good evening and thank you in advance for the generous tip you’re going to leave me.” As welcomes from Athenian taxi drivers go, it was a fairly original and disarming one. I’m not a regular cab customer but have used them enough over the last couple of years to see a change in their attitude. Where they were surly, they now seem resigned. Passengers were once taken for granted; now they’re a rarity.

Take a look at any taxi rank and you will see the yellow-colored cars lining up around the block. At Athens International Airport, where I caught my ride, things are even more dramatic. “I waited seven hours in the queue,” the driver tells me.

Greek taxi drivers say their takings have dropped by more than 50 percent since the crisis began. In the meantime, their costs have skyrocketed: The cost of gasoline has risen, as has the consumption tax on fuel, while social security contributions also shot up. A cabbie needs to make about 15 euros a day profit just to pay for his healthcare and pension cover. This is far from a given in Athens and other cities.
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Banners and batons

mergosSeveral hundred people in Greece lost their jobs on Thursday. For other Greeks, it was business as usual: A few dozen protesters took their banners to the Finance Ministry, a few dozen riot police officers wielded their batons to push them back.

The incident prompted a new and predictable round in the ongoing row between SYRIZA and Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias. Moments before our decision makers banged their heads together in futility once more, the latest shocking unemployment figures (27 percent overall in November and 61.7 percent for under-25s) were published. The juxtaposition between these two events summed up the illness that is threatening to cripple Greece.

Members of SYRIZA’s youth wing, as well as two of the leftist party’s MPs, went to the office of Finance Ministry general secretary Giorgos Mergos to protest comments he made earlier this week suggesting that at 586 euros Greece’s minimum wage may still be too high.

There are several ways to interpret Mergos’s ill-advised comments. SYRIZA took it to be an insult to those earning basic pay, evident from the banner which challenged the official to try to live on that little. If this was his intention, then it is truly condemnable. It seems unlikely, though, that this was the idea he was trying to communicate.

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Can Greece and its lenders speak the same language?

Greece’s coalition government appears to be paring down its expectations for any substantial renegotiation of its bailout terms. Athens is concerned about the absence of the necessary goodwill among its eurozone partners to support an overhaul of the loan agreement. Yet, all Greek economic indicators, including the ones that point to another worse-than-expected contraction this year, scream for a substantial reworking of the package.  The government’s only hope is that after almost three years of talking at cross purposes, Greece and the key European players quickly discover a way to speak a common language.

Ahead of this week’s European Union leaders’ summit and the latest visit from the troika inspectors, due to start on Sunday, the nascent coalition was steeling itself for tough negotiations with its lenders. There was a fundamental flaw to its strategy, though. Greece was preparing for political bartering when its partners were only interested in an economic discussion. Continue reading

Greece and Portugal: Twinned in austerity

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has returned to Greece after holding talks in Brussels, Luxembourg and Frankfurt with European Union officials aimed at securing further emergency loans. It remains unclear whether he has done enough — or indeed if he can do enough on his own — to secure further funding.

There have been no such problems for Greece’s debt-plagued bailout brother Portugal, which on November 16 was told it would be receiving its third installment of a 78-billion-euro emergency loan package. While Greece is hanging on for the 8 billion euros it needs by mid-December to prevent bankruptcy, Portugal has already received exactly the same amount.

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Greece letting EU funds to fight unemployment and social exclusion slip away

Illustration by Manos Symeonakis

European Union funding mainly aimed at helping the unemployed — who now number almost 800,000 — get back to work, Kathimerini English Edition has learned.

European Commission sources said that Greece was entitled to claim 4.2 billion euros between 2007 and 2013 through the European Social Fund (ESF), which is designed to promote employment and enhance social inclusion in the EU. However, Greece, which is notoriously poor at absorbing EU funds, has used just a small percentage of this money.

Sources said that Greece has only claimed 18.5 percent (less than 800 million euros) so far. The average absorption rate for ESF funds across the 27 member states is 24 percent.

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