(Mar. 23, 2009) In Greece, young adults up to 30 years of age are encountering serious problems in finding employment commensurate with their professional qualifications and expertise. The unemployment rate for this age group was over 22 percent in 2007, the highest unemployment rate among the Member States of the European Union for this age group. Even those adults who are employed tend to be employed in low paid jobs or in jobs that do not match their professional qualifications and training. The current economic crisis has exacerbated this problem and has increased the overall unemployment rate, as well as the poverty level. Currently, Greece has the highest poverty rate in the European Union, approximately 21 percent.
In early March 2009, a new piece of legislation was introduced in the Greek Parliament designed to combat the unemployment rate among young adults and to assist small- and medium-sized companies. The draft law provides for the establishment of a new four-year program of professional integration, subsidized by the Greek government, for jobseekers who find employment in businesses that employ up to 50 people. Professional integration entails the training of the newly hired for from six to nine months. The training is supervised by the National System of Integrating Professional Education and Training with Employment. Health insurance contributions for these employees are fully funded by the government the first year; the public contribution goes down to 75 percent the second year, 50 the third, and 25 the fourth. If the worker is physically handicapped, a second year of 100 percent funding is added to the program.
Businesses that hire the unemployed are obliged not to fire workers during this period, unless the firing is based on “important grounds.” In cases of unjustified firings, the business would lose its subsidies.
Unemployment benefits had been tied to 55 percent of the minimum wage, which was insufficient to cover the basic needs of the unemployed. The new law, if adopted, would increase unemployment benefits to 70 percent of the minimum wage. It would also provide for free health insurance through the I.K.A. [Institute of Social Insurance]. (Draft Law “Employment Promotion and Unemployment Combat,” Greek Parliament website, http://www.parliament.gr/ergasies/nomosxedia/EisigisiEpitropon/639/a-apa
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