Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Greeks Protest Against Unemployment

Greece's unemployment is becoming increasingly entrenched and long-term. That suggests not simply the need for an economic turnaround, but management of a social and political problem for many years to come. 

Al Jazeera English ran the following report


Intro:  The first general strike of the year is bringing much of Greece to a standstill. Some public transport in the capital, Athens, is working under court order. But an estimated three million workers in both public and private sectors are off the job today, to protest against repeated salary cuts. Flights to and from Athens are cancelled for eight hours. Banks, schools and government offices are shut. John Psaropoulos reports on the growing frustration among workers and the unemployed.
Police bring tears to the eyes of rock-throwing skirmishers in downtown Athens.
And there are even casualties in this fracas.
But it is a sideshow to the tens of thousands who marched for more jobs and fewer taxes.
Here the tears are of a different kind.
Less than a third of this country of eleven million is still employed. More jobs will evaporate in coming months, as the economy sinks into a fifth year of recession.
Small businesses - the backbone of employment in Greece - are hardest hit.
This mother of one ran a graphic design firm.
SOT - Argyro Syriga, Unemployed
Clients started not paying. I lowered my rates. At first I cut staff, then I worked alone, and then I just had to shut the business.
Hers is one of 160 thousand enterprises that have gone out of business during the crisis. She's had her power cut and could lose the home her father left her, because she cannot pay a property tax introduced during the crisis.
It’s not just that there are fewer jobs. People are also earning less.
This man teaches civil engineering at the Athens Polytechnic.
SOT Prof. Yannis Protonotarios, Athens Polytechnic
I've lost 700 euros during the crisis - a third of my salary. We're operating without copyers and paper. Students are demoralised.
Students like Mihalis and Themis, who say they dream of a new world springing from the ruins of a broken one.
Those who do work have seen their income fall by nearly half during the crisis. Minimum wage for the young is now about 550 dollars a month. Yet only one in two young people can find work. The unions say government policy is heading into a dead end.
Savvas Robolis is the senior researcher for the private sector unions. He fears that public revenues could collapse, and take society down with them
SOT - Savvas Robolis, General Confederation of Workers in Greece  (In Greek)
59:59:53   I am afraid that we may see a phenomenon that could cause a social explosion. Right now many people can’t pay their taxes. That’s why state revenue fell 300 million euros short of January targets. If that continues, I don’t know if the state will be able to meet its obligations by June or July. It may not have the cash to pay salaries and pensions.
The government says austerity IS working. It says exports reached a record high last year, and the finance minister confidently predicts an end to the recession by the end of this year.
But talk of numbers doesn't move these people. They're feeling the pain of a plummeting economy, with no end in sight.
John Psaropoulos, Al Jazeera, Athens

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