In her article for the Sunday edition of Avgi newspaper (25.12), Alternate Labour Minister Rania Antonopoulos outlines the government’s policy on combating unemployment and fostering growth. The government “wants to put a halt to unemployment and pauperization, to fairly allocate the burdens of the fiscal adjustment, to restore collective labour contracts and to set on solid foundations the country’s productive restructuring” she wrote, adding that the “promotion of full-time employment is at the heart of our programme’s philosophy”.

As Antonopoulos points out, the government considers that full-time jobs and steady labor relations are the safest path to growth. To refute the creditors’ claim that diminishing labor costs boosts competitiveness, Antonopoulos posits that so far reducing salaries has only caused a decline in demand, which has lead to the shutting down of many SMEs, while flexible and part-time jobs have actually greatly reduced revenues  for social security funds and the state.

Minister Antonopoulos stress that the government’s position is that there can be no growth or improvement of Greek economy’s competitiveness without the creation of steady jobs and the fair distribution of revenues: “Competitiveness does not depend only on salaries, but also on the overall production cost and on the demand. Bringing back collective labor agreements will be beneficial not only for the workers, but for the overall economy.”

According to the minister, economic indicators have been steadily improving during the last two years. Productive investments have increased by 2,4% in the first 9 months of 2016, compared to the corresponding 9 months of 2015. During the same period, foreign direct investment tripled, rising from 703,3 million to 2,313 billion euros. Compared with 2014, direct foreign investment rose by 43%. Also, in the third quarter of 2016, economic climate, business confidence and PMI indicators have improved by 9-12 units compared to last year.

Reversing the decline of purchasing power takes time, as Antonopoulos admits, but she posits that demand could grow through consumer base enlargement. As she points out, in Greece 7 in 10 unemployed are long-term unemployed, so putting these people back in the job market will result in an important increase in demand. Since the beginning of 2015 more than 200,000 jobs have been created, but as the minister points out, the quality of these jobs is important: “The promotion of full employment is at the core of the philosophy of employment programmes that we implement. We support the wage and non-wage costs to businesses in order to create full-time jobs in the private sector. Full employment is also the aim of our new 8-month duration programs in the municipalities for a total of 42,000 unemployed, particularly long-term unemployed.”

According to the minister, the new 4430/2016 Law that provides the legal framework for the development of Social and Solidarity Economy, also promotes the creation of decent jobs, while the completion of Diagnosis Mechanism for Needs of the Labour Market, a diagnostic system that can “listen” to the market, collect data on sectors with potential for growth and jobs and match labour supply to demand, will be a very usefull to tool to both the companies looking to hire and the jobseekers. This system might also contribute in stemming the “brain drain”, by enabling Greek enterprises to draw from a pool of young professionals with high qualifications and skills, who in recent years have had to move abroad to find suitable work.

Overall, minister Antonopoulos cocludes, unemployment is falling slowly but steadily last two years. The unemployment rate in January 2015 was 25.9%, and currently it at 22.6%, according to data of Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) for the third quarter of the year.