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Chief Editor- Athens News

Greece: Jobless and hopeless

by Chief Editor- Athens News

14 February 2012

The real question is not why people are reacting with shock and anger over the harshest austerity measures yet to be drawn up as part of the terms of the country’s latest bailout, but why the response has not been even more intense. Not yet, anyway.

For those who need to see it to believe it, the news that the minimum wage is indeed to be reduced by 22 percent from its current 751 euros a month is to be found towards the bottom of page 20 of the 32-page memorandum. And if you have the misfortune to be aged 25 or under, your salary could be 32 percent under the current minimum - or 510 euros before tax.

Sacrificed at the altar of continued eurozone membership, Greece’s youth are paying the highest price for the politicians’ inability to implement virtually any of the reforms stipulated in the first bailout memorandum.

The latest unemployment figures, released only hours before confirmation of the coalition party leaders’ agreement to the bailout terms, showed the number of jobless reaching another record high - 20.9 percent in November 2011, up from 18.2 percent the previous month. For the first time, more than a million people (around a quarter of Greece’s workforce) are now out of work.

But now consider the jobless figure for the up-to-25-year-olds: a scarcely fathomable 48 percent, according to national statistical authority Elstat.

Today’s monthly unemployment benefit is little more than 500 euros a month, though this too is certain to be reduced. Given the new minimum wage, why work at all?

Greece is better off in the euro than with the drachma, whatever the arguments to the contrary. But it will not be long before people in their twenties and early thirties say that enough is enough. What’s the point of preserving a 13th or 14th salary when you haven’t got one in the first place?

So much should have been done before reaching this point. Where is the 50bn euros raised in privatisations demanded by the first memorandum? Where are the public sector layoffs, or even the 30,000 moved into the “labour reserve”? So what if a handful of high-profile tax dodgers were arrested - and then let off with little more than a slap on the wrist?

Rather than deal with the real issues, the country’s politicians and bailout negotiators have instead targeted the most vulnerable sections of society - pensioners, but, above all, the youth.

Source: Athens News

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