Despite labor market reforms, new positions fail to materialize

Job opportunities are constantly dwindling in Greece as a result of a shrinking employment market, even though working hours have become more flexible and salaries are being slashed.

Recent data compiled by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) concerning job openings in the immediate future and short-term indices on employment, work hours and salaries shed light on key sectors of the economy, which, experts say, shows that employment opportunities will remain at very low levels despite the small but steady reduction in unemployment rates.

According to the data, the number of job openings shrank by 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. In Q1 2014 the contraction was 1.4 percent. While the data point to a small rebound in the first half of 2014 (with job openings at 15,921 in Q1, 18,596 in Q2, and then 17,541 in Q3 and 14,930 in Q4), the momentum stopped in 2015, with the numbers heading south up until the first quarter of this year.

The short-term indices on employment, hours and wages, meanwhile, highlight the prevalence of flexible labor and the continued drop in wages, hand-in-hand with high unemployment. Examples include manufacturing, energy providers, transport services, administrative activities and construction, where the figures show a significant rise in employment, without the corresponding rise in either working hours or salaries.

In manufacturing – without seasonal adjustment or adjustment in regard to the number of working days – employment rose from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016 by 3.7 percent and working hours by 4.4 percent, though wages only inched up 1.9 percent. Likewise, in transport-storage, employment in the same year increased 25.4 percent and working hours 17.3 percent, with wages growing by just 5.6 percent. In the sector of “professional, scientific and technical activities,” ELSTAT says that despite a 4.4 uptick in employment and a 10.1 percent rise in working hours, salaries shrank in the year by 1.1 percent.

Construction presents a more optimistic picture, possibly because of the relaunch of several major projects, with employment rising by 16.6 percent, working hours by 25.2 percent and wages by 27.8 percent.

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