Greece is struggling to find tourism workers because of the risk of more blockades

After working abroad for a decade, chef Nicholas Imidakis returned home from Dubai last year, hoping that the final recovery from the Greek epidemic and the rise of Mediterranean tourism would do him a good job.

Like many, he was disappointed. As the new blockade delayed the reopening of Greece և the start of the tourist season, im imidakis struggled to find a job that provided security և a decent salary. After finding a well-paying job in Abu Dhabi, he reluctantly decided to return to Gulf.

“I had two [job] suggestions:[in Greece]”But no one could tell me when the hotel would open and for how long,” said im imidakis.

His decisions explain why Greece now lacks a tourism workforce. The industry typically accounts for one-fifth of economic output, but struggles to prepare for the busy summer season as potential candidates for restaurant and bar work are constrained by the renewed Covid-19 restrictions due to the risk of closing down the business.

The problem threatens to seriously delay the recovery of the country from the epidemic, given the potential importance for the tourism economy. “This is the first time we have seen such a shortage in the industry,” said George Vorg Kavatas, president of the Federation of Greek Restaurants and Associations.

Chef Nicholas imimidakis goes to work in Abu Dhabi as job opportunities in Greece were extremely uncertain © Nikolas Tsimidakis

Many other countries such as Germany“It has become difficult to recruit staff for restaurants and bars as the epidemic has eased.” The difference with Greece is the relative size and economic weight of the sector.

It typically employs more than 432,000 people, or 10% of the national workforce, almost twice the proportion of Spain. Thus, any problem can have macroeconomic consequences.

HSBC predicts that overall tourism returns will boost Greece’s growth by 2 percentage points this year, following a more than 8% drop in gross domestic product from a full two-thirds of last year.

At the same time, the Minister of Finance Christos Staikouras predicted that tourism revenues will reach 8 billion euros in 2021. Less than half of the € 18 billion in 2019, but double the previous year’s epidemic decline, when industry revenues plummeted to € 4 billion.

But economists now warn that labor shortages, despite Greece’s 16.5 per cent unemployment, the EU’s highest, could hold back economic growth, shattering those economic forecasts.

Psaru Beach in Mykonos prepares for delayed summer tourist season © Byron Smith / Getty Images

“The main areas of job creation. “Such as tourism, retail and entertainment are subject to uncertainty,” said Nikos Vettas, CEO of the IOBE Economic Analysis Center. “It is unclear how quickly they will return to pre-Covidian levels.”

Hercules Isimopoulos, owner of bars, hotels and restaurants, who also heads the Mykonos Island Island tourism industry group, blames the recurring cycle of blocking and easing restrictions to keep workers from being laid off again.

“The constant opening and closing of restaurants and bars over the past year has created a lot of uncertainty, with employees fearing they may force us to close again,” he said. “That’s why they’re looking for other types of jobs,” such as delivery drivers.

Complicating matters is the large supply of mediocre cafes, bars and restaurants, which do not offer attractive job prospects. After the financial crisis, the hospitality industry served as a buffer for many who did not have a job or had low skills.

Lefteris Lazaru, the Michelin star chef, is struggling to fill the jobs that are usually coveted in Varoulko, at his Piraeus restaurant.

Kavatas estimates that 92 percent of all start-ups between 2010 and 2020 are food and beverages, leading to an excess of a long-running boiling crisis that has led to an epidemic.

“People think it’s an easy profession, that anyone can open a cafe, but that’s not true,” said Kavatas. “Excess supply. It hurts everyone because the decline in quality and limited profits are more divisive. “What we are seeing now is the tip of the iceberg.”

Some restaurateurs say the government’s policy of mitigating the economic impact of Covid-19 has exacerbated the problem. Employees whose restaurants and bars are closed are still being offered paid subsidies as indoor meals have not yet been allowed to resume.

The recalculated line graph of GDP (2019 = 100), which shows the Greek epidemic recovery, underperforms the average of the euro area

Many employees now prefer to live on a € 534 a month state scholarship rather than work in a restaurant where their salary starts at around € 850 a month, restaurant owners say. The subsidy scheme is equivalent to almost 1 billion euros for the government since the start of the epidemic.

“Many people are complacent about the benefits they are getting; they are not looking for a job,” said Nektarios Nikolopoulos, a restaurant and bar owner based in Athens, on the island of Serifos.

Others see staff shortages as a symptom of wider problems in the Greek labor market.

Country: decade of economic crisis led to lower wages that have not yet been restored, youth unemployment, Europe’s highest rate, and the emigration of highly skilled workers, such as cook im imidakis.

The lack of staff is “a sign of labor market dysfunction,” said Vettas, who blamed “too many regulations” for making employment “unsustainable” in Greece.

Meanwhile, even the most famous places in Greece are worried.

Lefteris Lazaru, a Michelin-starred chef, said this summer was the first time in 35 years that his famous Varoulko restaurant on the coast of Piraeus, on the outskirts of Athens, struggled to fill all 76 staff positions that are usually flashing.

“Every year my box was so full of resumes of people who wanted to work here that I could not go through them,” he said. “I do not have one now.”

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