Greece’s unemployment falls under 20% after 7 years of bailout

Greek bour Minister Effie Achtsioglou (L) and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (R) attend a session in the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece, 17 May 2017. [EPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI]

Greece’s unemployment rate, the highest in the European Union, has dropped below 20% for the first time in seven years, statistics bureau Elstat reported on 9 August.

The rate came in at 19.5%, down from 21.7% the same month a year earlier.

The total number of employees in May 2018 is estimated at 3,824,393. The unemployed amounted to 924,941 while the economically inactive population amounted to 3,230,269 people.

Employees increased by 70,052 compared to May 2017 (up 1.9%) and by 48,884 compared to April 2018 (an increase of 1.3%).

Labour minister Efi Achtsioglou called the news – which came days after Greece received a final 15-billion-euro payment from its eight-year bailout programme “encouraging”.

Efforts to rekindle economic growth and create jobs, especially for young people, had paid off, as had the fight against undeclared work, she said.

Leftist Syriza party issued a statement, saying that the fall in unemployment below the 20% for the first time in 7 years is the strongest sign that the country has “permanently and irrevocably turned the page”.

But Greece still has by far the highest unemployment rate in the European Union.

The country’s youth is hardest hit, with nearly 40 percent of young people between 15 and 24 out of work.

One in every four women doesn’t have a job.

Greece’s public finances spun out of control in 2010, sparking three international bailouts and threatening the country’s membership of the euro single currency.

Athens had to bow to harsh terms imposed by its creditors, with austerity measures and reforms striking at the heart of Greece’s bloated public sector.

The cutbacks, in turn, led to layoffs and until recently economic growth has been too anemic to make a meaningful dent in unemployment statistics.

Unemployment across the eurozone currently stands at its lowest level in nine years at 8.5 percent on average.

Spain has the area’s second-largest jobless rate after Greece, at 15.8 percent.

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