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Bankers are the new unemployed in Greece

10 December 2012 / 22:12:45  GRReporter
4316 reads

Victoria Mindova

The recession that has been deepening for the fifth year in a row and the lack of effective measures to tackle the debt crisis in Greece have caused an increase in unemployment and the delayed reforms, privatization and market liberalization have exacerbated the labour market crisis. Tens of thousands of firms have gone bankrupt, others introduced severe cuts and the most stable international companies have recently started to cut their staff en masse or to leave the country.

From unskilled or people without experience and ambitions, the characteristics of the average unemployed Greeks have started to change. The new unemployed are highly qualified professionals in key sectors of the economy. Today, they are either too experienced, or too "expensive" or ''old'' for the market standards in order to compete for the few vacancies in Greece.

The new unemployed in the country are mainly from the banking, automotive, construction and manufacturing sectors. Owners and managers of small and medium-sized enterprises, managers of regional branches of banks and their mid-level managerial staff and employees of construction companies are those who make up the statistics on unemployment today. These are the data presented by Rebeka Pitsika, CEO of the People in Business human resources management company. The company organized the forum "People in crisis", which examined the problems of the labour market and the way the crisis has changed it.

Pitsika presented the main characteristics of unemployment in Greece, which is especially high among young people. This is mainly due to the fact that companies no longer invest in the training of their staff. The crisis has made them cut the costs for additional training significantly or completely. So, the companies find the youth unproductive and there are not many opportunities for professional development for them.

Another age group of workers who have been severely affected by the crisis are specialists aged over 45. They are highly qualified, they are good professionals but they find themselves outside the labour market today because they are considered ''old''. At the same time, the retirement age is 67 years. This means that these people have another 22 years of service to continue their career, but the labour market does not give them this opportunity, said Pitsika.

She says that these people are so specialized that it is difficult for them to take another position in the labour market.

The drain of local young professionals abroad is also a serious problem in Greece. The high levels of unemployment drive many young people to seek opportunities in countries with a more stable economy. On the other hand, there are no young professionals in specific sectors such as IT, technological development, exportation or social media. "It is very difficult to find at this time good specialists in these sectors for which demand is still high," said the head of People in Business. The last choice of the human capital in the country remains entrepreneurship. Unlike the practice in other countries, this choice comes largely out of necessity in Greece. It is not the first priority of the majority of starting businessmen, but an alternative to the lack of jobs for which they are qualified.

Human resources specialists in sectors with the greatest loss of jobs spoke at the forum as well.  One of them was Konstantinos Tsalikas who is the head of the Human Resources Department at Citibank Hellas. The shrinkage of the banking market and the upcoming mergers are expected to leave in the streets around 20 thousand bank employees within two - three years. This is about 40% of the current staff in the financial sector.

"We are doing more with less," is the motto of today's era, says Tsalikas. He believes that the young people who are now entering the labour market in the financial sector have very high standards for the beginning of their professional career. According to him, the labour market should be flexible as should the people's perception of the type of employment that they have to pursue.

In Greece, temporary employment is not yet well accepted but the specialist states that it has many positive aspects for the citizens who live in conditions of crisis. There is always the possibility for the temporary employment to become permanent. It prevents long periods of unemployment, helps workers obtain new skills and keeps them active and alert to new career opportunities. "It takes an open mind. The mentality with which we perceive the idea of ​​work and employment should change," insists Tsilikas.

The construction sector along with banks has also paid a high price after the outbreak of crisis, says George Tatas, who is the managing director of Saint Gobain Hellas. The unemployment there is also in the range of 40%. The production in construction materials has shrunk by half and now the firms have to compete with companies from the Balkan countries.

Tasas believes that the state should protect local producers from cheap imports even through the drastic measure of restricting imports in order to keep the Greek enterprises. He gave the example of the plasterboard production facility to the holding. In 2008, it worked at full capacity and met 70% of the needs of the construction works of the corporation. Today, the production of plasterboard in the same production unit has declined to 35% from the levels in 2008, says the businessman. He believes that imports of materials at competitive prices from Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey prevent the local production from recovering.

Tags: EconomyMarketsPeople in BusinessUnemploymentCrisisGreeceBanksFinancial sector
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