World Economy

Greeks Stuck in Insecure Part-Time, bad-paying Jobs

The country is struggling to claw out of the worst financial crisis to ever hit a EU member state.The country is struggling to claw out of the worst financial crisis to ever hit a EU member state.

Greece’s once record jobless rate of 27% may have dropped seven points since the start of the financial crisis, but nearly six in 10 people are stuck in a market dominated by part-time, on-and-off jobs.

At 26 and as a recent graduate of Greece’s top school for political science, Julia lists the jobs she has held in recent years. First came waitressing, then student tutoring, then working with children at an activities center, then playing service representative for a mobile telephone phone company and now taking orders as a call center operator, DW reported.

Not surprisingly, all jobs have been temporary and bad-paying. But worst of all, the gigs have demanded full-time work for part-time terms of employment, she said.

“You’re hired for a weekly, 15-hour Friday-to-Saturday job and before you know it, your boss is calling you in, forcing you to work Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays without extra pay, or time off,” she says.

“You tolerate it for as long as you can because in crisis-crippled Greece,” she quips, “that has become the working norm. Employment here is no longer about a lifelong choice with a path and prospects; rather, a living wage that helps you get by—barely.”

Dead-end, fixed-term jobs are haunting most of Europe’s financially battered south. In recent years, over half of Spain’s youth employees have held temporary contracts, compared to two-fifths in Italy. But in Greece, state statistics released this week show a troubling trend: Six in 10 people are stuck in lousy, insecure part-time jobs.

While the trend first exceeded the startling 50% mark last year, experts expected the figure to quickly recede as the Greek economy, strangled by seven years of budget cuts and austerity reforms, grew by nearly 2%.  

But it hasn’t, spelling what experts now call “hollowed growth” for a country struggling to claw out of the worst financial crisis to ever hit a European Union member state.

“It’s the worst possible predicament Greece and Greeks can find themselves in after nearly a decade of painful sacrifices,” says George Kollias, a labor expert at the General Confederation of Greek Workers.

Since the economy skid off the fiscal cliff in 2009, Athens has had to rely on three multi-billion-euro lifelines from international creditors in exchange for strict fiscal retrenchment and reforms that would boost productivity.

“The working assumption,” said Kollias was that “new jobs would be created once salaries were sheared and hiring and firing rules were made easier for employers. But ultimately, this has all backfired, creating a monster, market jungle where anything goes.”

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