The role of employers’ organizations in fighting the economic downturn was the subject of discussions between representatives of European employers organizations, the Greek government and the European Economic and Social Committee at a conference in Athens. President of the Employers of Poland Andrzej Malinowski was a guest of the conference.
The meetings and discussion panels during the two-day conference were attended by the chairmen of the biggest Greek organizations of employers in tourism, crafts, trade and services as well as trade union representatives. Deputy Chairman of The European Economic and Social Committee Jacek Krawczyk was also present. The conference was organized by the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce and the European Economic and Social Committee.
The year 2013 was a turning point for Europe. We are slowly returning to the path of growth. 2014 should be the year of balancing the economy. We want to use the first half of the year – the time of the Greek presidency – as well as possible – said Giorgos Karanikas, Secretary General of ESEE (National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce). As a result of the 2008-12 economic crisis, the expenses of Greek households have decreased by 30%. Currently there are almost a million families, where no member has a job (the population of Greece is 11,2 mln people).
During the conference, Chairman of the Employers’ Group of the EESC Jacek Krawczyk stated that “crises and problems can and should be stimulating”. He encouraged to use the crisis as ‘an opportunity for reform and innovation.” He stressed that one of the most pressing issues in the EU is the question of financing SME’s. - We should look for good practices in other member states, learn from each other – he said. Austria was mentioned as an example, as the job schooling system there is shaped in cooperation with employers and reflects the needs of the economy.
Jiannis Vroutsis, the Greek Minister of Economy, reminded that in January Greece will take over the EU presidency. – For the first time, Greece managed to create a surplus, the balance of payments will be positive. Greece is a European leader in terms of unemployment, but for the first time in quite some time our unemployment rate decreases’ – he remarked. – We are changing Greece’s development model, we have changed our approach – jobs are not created by regulations, we need to have a good environment for entrepreneurship, our current policy serves this purpose – he added.
Vassilis Korkidis, chairman of ESSE (National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce) said that only the strongest companies have survived, the ones that were able to weather six years of crisis and 3 years essentially without a bank system. In his opinion, employers need stability.
Participants underlined the key role of financial liquidity for companies. Tourism and trade, as traditionally key sector of the Greek economy, have a particularly important role to play in overcoming the crisis.
Last year was the first since the crisis to see an improvement in the tourism industry, where over 18% of Greeks are employed and where over 16.5% of the GDP is generated. This year has seen the biggest influx of tourists in six years – in the summer, over 20 mln tourists visited Greece.
In its most recent report, the European Commission forecasts an economic growth of 0.6% for Greece. it would be the first year of growth after six years of deep recession. This year, the Greek economy is expected to shrink by 4%. According to the Commission, the state of public finances is improving, banks have been provided with capital, reforms are underway.