Employment Policy in the ‘European Employment Strategy’ Era: What Prospects?*
Although in 2001 Greek unemployment decreased for the second year in a row, its magnitude continues to trouble policy makers and commentators: at 10.5 per cent, it remains the highest in the European Union (EU) next to Spain (10.6 per cent), and is the fourth highest amongst OECD countries. Analysts also point out that the recent decline in unemployment (by 0.6 per cent over 2000) is more the result of declining employment rates rather than of net employment creation, and express concern over unemployment’s persistence despite high GDP growth (4.1 per cent in 2001). If unemployment cannot be tamed whilst Greece is in the midst of its ‘Olympic-Games boom’, runs the argument, what will happen in the near future when the – mostly construction-led – boom will have subsided, and the Third Community Support Framework inflows will have ceased? But this is not all. Casting a continually heavy shadow on social cohesion have also been the resilience of long-term unemployment (at 5.1 per cent, the second highest in the EU) and the fact that, contrary to all the other EU member states, the share of households with no employed member has been increasing. Whilst the EU-15 registered a 10.3 per cent decline in 1999 (the last year for which comparable data are available), in Greece the respective figure rose by no less than 8.5 per cent (Eurostat, 2001, 2002a; OECD, 2001).