Greece struggles to find tourist workers due to the risk of more lockdowns


After working abroad for ten years, chef Nikolas Tsimidakis (Nikolas Tsimidakis) returned from Dubai last year, hoping that Greece will eventually recover from the pandemic and that the surge in Mediterranean tourism will allow him to find a good job .

Like many people, he was disappointed. As the new blockade delayed the reopening of Greece and the start of the tourist season, Tsimi Dakis worked hard to find jobs that could provide security and decent wages. After finding a high-paying job in Abu Dhabi, he reluctantly decided to return to the Gulf region.

“I have two [job] provide[in Greece]… But no one can tell me when the hotel will open or how long it will be open,” Zimidakis said.

Decisions like his explain why Greece is now facing a labor shortage in the tourism industry. The industry usually accounts for one-fifth of economic output, but is struggling to prepare for the important summer as potential candidates for restaurant and bar jobs are hindered by the risk of business closure due to new Covid-19 restrictions.

Given the core importance of the tourism industry to the economy, this issue may seriously hinder the country’s recovery from the pandemic. “This is the first time we have faced such a shortage in the industry,” said George Kavathas, chairman of the Federation of Greek Restaurants and Related Industries.

Chef Nikolas Tsimidakis found a job in Abu Dhabi because the employment options in Greece are too uncertain © Nikolas Tsimidakis

Many other countries, Like Germany, Also found that as the pandemic eased, it was difficult to recruit bar and restaurant staff. The difference from Greece is the relative scale and economic weight of the industry.

It usually employs more than 432,000 people, accounting for 10% of the national workforce, almost twice that of Spain. Therefore, any problem may have an impact on the macro economy.

HSBC predicts that the overall recovery of the tourism industry will drive Greece’s economic growth this year by two percentage points, while last year’s GDP fell by more than 8%, accounting for two-thirds of the total.

At the same time, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras predicts that tourism revenue will reach 8 billion euros in 2021-less than half of the 18 billion euros in 2019, but more than the mid-pandemic last year. Industry revenue doubled when it plummeted to 4 billion euros.

But economists now warn that despite the 16.5% unemployment rate in Greece, the highest in the European Union, labor shortages may hinder economic growth and weaken these economic and income forecasts.

Psarou beach on Mykonos prepares for the postponed summer tourist season © Byron Smith/Getty Images

“Major sectors create jobs… Nikos Vettas, general manager of the economic think tank IOBE, said that industries such as tourism, retail and entertainment are facing uncertainty. “It is unclear how quickly they will recover. To the level before Covid. ”

Hercules Zisimopoulos, owner of a bar, hotel, and restaurant, and the head of a local tourism group on Party Island, blamed the repeated loop of blockades and relaxation of restrictions on preventing workers from rebuilding start working.

“Last year, the continuous closure of restaurants and bars created a lot of uncertainty, and employees worried that we might be forced to close again,” he said. “That’s why they are looking for other types of jobs,” such as a delivery driver.

Compounding the problem is the oversupply of mediocre cafes, bars and restaurants that do not offer attractive job prospects. After the financial crisis, the hotel industry provided a buffer for many unemployed or low-skilled people.

Michelin-starred chef Lefteris Lazarou is working to fill his usually coveted staff position at Varoulko, a Piraeus restaurant

According to Kavathas’ calculations, as many as 92% of all new businesses opened between 2010 and 2020 are in the food and beverage industry, which led to a long-simmering crisis of oversupply, which peaked during the pandemic.

“People think it’s a simple profession, anyone can open a cafe, but it’s not the case,” Kavathas said. “Supply exceeds demand… As quality declines and limited profits are shared by more people, everyone will be hurt… What we see now is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Some restaurant owners stated that the government’s policies to reduce the economic impact of Covid-19 have made the problem worse. Since indoor dining has not been allowed to resume, subsidies are still provided to employees whose restaurants and bars are closed.

The re-adjusted GDP line chart (2019 = 100) shows that Greece’s pandemic recovery is below the euro area average

The restaurant owner said that many workers now prefer to live on a national allowance of 534 euros a month, rather than working in restaurants with a monthly salary of about 850 euros. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the subsidy program has cost the government nearly 1 billion euros.

Nektarios Nikolopoulos, a restaurant and bar owner who lives in Athens and Serifos, said: “Many people become complacent because of the benefits, and they are not looking for work.”

Others see the shortage of employees as a symptom of a wider problem in the Greek labor market.

Nationwide A decade-long economic crisis This has led to unrecovered lower wages, the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe, and the immigration of many skilled workers-such as chef Tsimidakis.

Vitas said that the shortage of employees is a “sign of dysfunction in the labor market” and he blamed “too many regulations” for “inflexibility” in employment in Greece.

At the same time, even the most famous venues in Greece are worried.

Michelin-starred chef Lefteris Lazarou said that this summer is the first time in 35 years that his famous restaurant Varoulko (located on the waterfront of Piraeus in the suburbs of Athens) has difficulty filling all of its 76 staff positions, which are usually just a flash.

“Every year, my inbox is full of resumes of people who want to work here, and I can’t pass them,” he said. “Now, I don’t have any.”



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