By Poly Pantelides
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades announced on Wednesday a series of measures worth €340m to rein in unemployment and support businesses.
Anastasiades said the measures had the potential to incorporate 7,500 unemployed in the economy, support 2,000 vulnerable families and a substantial number of businesses.
He warned however the measures did not solve any problems, merely alleviated them.
His government, the president said, would implement whatever policies and actions they could to help the economy recover as soon as possible. “…That is the only solution to everything our people are undergoing today.”
In a speech broadcast live from the presidential palace, Anastasiades said the government was focused on alleviating the debt crisis’ impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the unemployed, and other vulnerable groups.
The measures fall under four broad categories – SMEs, hotels, youth unemployment and social cohesion – and are due to be launched in January, Anastasiades said.
Some €300m will be channelled to businesses via the Entrepreneurship Fund, to be jointly funded by the European Investment Fund and the government.
Funds will be made available to commercial banks so they give loans to SMEs.
The goal is to stimulate growth, support SMEs and create new jobs, but also maintain existing jobs, Anastasiades said.
Terms and conditions for the loans will be set by the European Central Bank to avoid mistakes of the past, the president said.
About 1,000 small retailers employing up to four people will have 70 per cent of the cost of one employee subsidised for ten months, with the employer obliged to pay the employee’s full wages for a further two months. About €7.0m is available for the scheme.
The government is also looking to use €3.0m to employ some 1,000 registered unemployed benefits’ recipients.
The scheme is available to retailers with a staff of up to 49 people who will be sent over an intern at no cost. Interns will continue to receive unemployment benefits for a month while the employer and the government will later jointly cover their wages for six months. The employer will then pay full wages for an additional two months.
The government will continue subsidising work experience at no extra cost to the employer. Anastasiades said the goal was to get another 5,000 young people working.
Some 2,500 unemployed up to the age of 35 will be able to apply for a six-month work experience. They will be given a certificate of work experience at the end of their term.
The same scheme will be open to up to 2,500 graduates of technical schools, high schools and two-year colleges. Together, the government is willing to spend €17 million on both measures.
There will be training available to those who are normally under- employed or unemployed in the hotel industry during the winter season.
Trainees will be paid a normal wage by their employers. The government will then pay employers whatever sum trainees would have been entitled to if they were still receiving unemployment benefits.
Anastasiades said the measure would help hotels stay open during the winter season by reducing their costs and help hotel staff improve their professional skills.
Those with no prior experience in the hotel industry who have been unemployed for at least 12 consecutive months may also opt for two-month training in the sector.
They will receive a €500 a month stipend while participating hotels will have their administrative costs compensated. Anastasiades said they had €2.0m to spend on training 1,500 unemployed.
Recipients of small pensions will be supported by registered unemployed who will be trained in caring for elderly people.
The aim is to cover some of their social and house-related needs by having someone help around the house, escort an older person to health centres or help them participate in social activities such as going to church, the cinema, or an art exhibition.
There is €1.8m available to support 1,000 pensioners and employ the people who will be helping them.
Financially vulnerable households will be given child care subsidies to help children’s caretakers find employment.
This is available to the long-term unemployed who are actively job hunting and to people whose wage is so low they cannot afford child care costs. Some 1,000 families will be able to either entrust their child in nurseries or else with people who are currently unemployed and will be trained in child care. Total budget is €4.0m.
Another €6.0m will be made available to 180 businesses wanting to become active in social enterprises, i.e. serve community interests without necessarily seeking to maximise profit.
Social enterprises are part of a new form of entrepreneurship already active in Europe that can create new jobs, Anastasiades said. Social enterprises offer services to vulnerable groups at a low cost and are not profit-minded, he said.
They often involve sectors dealing with community support, social services, health, and education.
Each business will be given up to €30,000 over a year to cover administrative costs. Authorities will offer them professional guidance and technical know-how to run social enterprises.