Getting young Greeks back to well-paying jobs will take Trojan efforts from Europe’s leaders
With 60% of the country’s under-25s jobless, Greece’s youth feel little hope
The controversial move last year, dictated by the Troika as part of the country’s second bailout memorandum, to reduce the minimum wage in the private sector by up to 22 per cent for all employees (or €586 per month gross) — and by 32 percent for those under 25 (€511 gross) — has failed to stem the jobs haemorrhage.
The low salaries are also frustrating many of the efforts at the county’s employment agency OAED to get people back into the workplace, where there two programmes available to unemployed youth.
Under one, aimed at offering work experience to 16-24 year olds over two years, applicants can expect to bring home only €341 net per month – 80 per cent of the minimum wage — with OAED covering the social insurance costs.
As Dimitris Bougiaklis, who heads the agency concedes, the wages are “very low” and, as a result, the option is not very popular.
In the second, more successful, work-experience option, open only to third-level graduates under the age of 35, participants can expect to bring home the applicable minimum wage for their age. The bonus for employers is an OAED subsidy that covers the wage and some of the social insurance contribution.
Another plank in OAED’s approach towards youth unemployment is developing and expanding, in terms of capacity, quality and market relevance, its existing dual system of apprenticeships, which, like the German model, combines theoretical courses in schools with practical training in the workplace.
Cost of living too high
Even though apprentices receive only about €300 a month, each year the system attracts more applications than the 10,000-12,000 places available, says OAED’s Nasia Theodoridou, who adds: “Our main target is to provide a place for every applicant and we are working with employers to secure that.”
She explains that with the help of experts from the German, British and Swedish jobs agencies, OAED is now working on reforming the curriculum to make it more applicable to the labour market, with the involvement of employers. Another plank of the reforms under way is to allow young Greeks interested in certain specialities carrying out their apprenticeships in Germany.
But OAED’s programmes hold out little in terms of prospects for graduates like Simantirakis.
“Taxes remain too high for businesses and individuals. The cost of living also also too high. Greece is not a cheap country and many employees are simply not able to pay their taxes, rents, electricity or supermarket bills with the low incomes on offer.”