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Fears of staff shortages arising in Greece excessive

Workers in Greece does not have the luxury of becoming more selective in their employment, as is the case elsewhere in Europe and in the world, because a state subsidy was paid by the government to offset the impact of the pandemic.

Concerns of staff shortages harming business operations in Greece seem to be overstated, economists say, as Eurostat data show that problems in finding staff members in the country is limited to just a few sectors.

At a time when staff shortages are creating big problems in countries such as Germany and the US, talk is growing in Greece that a similar trend is emerging in the country, also resulting in a shortage of low-skilled workers in tourism, manufacturing and the construction industry. The data, however, shows a different picture in Greece’s case.

In terms of the broader labor market, Eurostat data for the first quarter show that job vacancies in the euro area amount to 2.1%. At the top of the list is the Czech Republic (5%), followed by Belgium (3.5%) and the Netherlands (3%). At the bottom of the list is Greece with 0.3%, a number that decreased from the third quarter of 2020, while in the rest of Europe it has been rising.

For the second quarter, the average job vacancy rate in the euro area amounted to 2.3%, however, for Greece no data are available for this period.  The argument that the pandemic and the lockdowns changed the habits of many workers, is not valid in Greece, say labor market experts.

Workers in Greece does not have the luxury of becoming more selective in their employment, as is the case elsewhere in Europe and in the world, because a state subsidy was paid by the government to offset the impact of the pandemic. In an economy with an unemployment rate of around 15% that also contains high "hidden" unemployment, such as workers taking part-time work because they can’t find the full-time employment sought after, new positions are relatively easily absorbed, as long as satisfactory pay and working conditions are offered.

Also, experts question the reliability of the data that show that employees in Greece are hard to find. The IT field is clearly an exception in a trend that has arisen due to years of a mismatch between the education system and the needs of the real economy and due to the strong demand for employees in this sector globally.

If the economy continues to grow at a strong pace in the medium term, there may be a shortage of workers in Greece. But until then, even with the current structure of the economy (that is, with minimal weight in the new economy and new technologies) it is considered unlikely that new openings in the labor market will pose a threat to companies, economists add.

Problems in Germany

Elsewhere, however, such as in Germany, the problem is very serious. Two out of three German companies report a shortage of qualified staff, according to a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation. Most of the vacancies are for young trainees, while the demand for graduates is now limited.

According to the Foundation, in 2020 54% of companies surveyed said they could not find qualified employees, but the situation has worsened significantly this year. The situation varies from sector to sector, but it is a general finding that there is a shortage of trainees. 48% of companies are looking for such employees, while only 27% are graduates. However, there is still a special demand for trained nurses and health professionals in general.

According to 67% of companies surveyed, the situation is expected to continue to worsen, while only 16% of companies believe that shortages can be covered by immigrants. The main reason is that employers usually consider that the corresponding training abroad does not meet German requirements.

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