News Analysis: Greek labor market appears saturated for migrants

Source: Xinhua| 2019-12-06 06:34:00|Editor: yan
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by George Georgakopoulos

ATHENS, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Greece's labor market appears saturated and the government needs to take measures to assist the migrants to be employed, an expert who drafted a study on the issue told Xinhua in a recent interview.

The increased foreign workforce in Greece has contained the improvement in the country's jobless rate for non-Greeks, according to the study conducted by the state-funded Center of Planning and Economic Research (KEPE) that was published in the think tank's "Greek Economic Outlook" journal in late October.

As Greece is struggling to incorporate some of the thousands of migrants arriving each month on its islands, the country's labor market finds it very hard to absorb those allowed to stay and work in the country, the study showed.

Official figures showed that over 7,000 migrants arrived at the northern Aegean islands in November.

According to Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) figures processed by the KEPE, the general jobless rate in Greece came to 19.2 percent in January-March 2019, down from 21.2 percent a year earlier. But the jobless rate among non-Greek men during the same period dropped just one percentage point to 32.3 percent and rose 2.4 percentage points to 41.1 percent among non-Greek women.

Actually, the number of employed non-Greek men and non-Greek women rose by 11.9 percent and 5.4 percent year-on-year, respectively, in the first quarter of 2019. But because of the influx of more migrants, the increases were overshadowed.

Ioannis Cholezas, the scientific researcher who drafted the KEPE study, told Xinhua that the rise in the number of employed foreigners is due to the recovery of sectors that tend to prefer the hiring of non-Greeks.

"The main sectors that see an increase in the employment of foreigners are tourism, that not only has jobs for unskilled workers but also addresses foreign visitors, so there is more sense in employing non-Greeks, and construction, partly due to tourism again, with short-term rentals proliferating and new hotels being built," said Cholezas.

The report notes that foreigners usually do not have the safety net Greeks have, such as family or any assets in the country which could ease the negative consequences of unemployment.

One should also not forget that the successful incorporation of foreigners in the Greek economy goes through their entry in the labor market, KEPE added.

"The state will need to address the issue of language, as the majority of new migrants to Greece use languages that are not at all related to Greek, such as Arabic," Cholezas notes.

"Another necessary intervention is the examination of migrants' skills and their certification in some form by the Greek state, for foreign workers to be able to present those papers to potential employers," he said.

The KEPE expert does not think the local labor market can absorb that many foreigners and he believes the migrants are also aware of it.

"Most of the new migrants are eager to leave anyway, and will do so at the first opportunity. With such a high unemployment rate, Greece does not need any more human resources," said Cholezas.