ATHENS – Facing a shortage of at least 55,000 workers at tourism sites as foreign visitors return en masse despite the protracted COVID-19 pandemic, Greece’s New Democracy government is being asked to lift its ban on retirees and also allow teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic . summer to fill the gap.
The pandemic effectively closed tourism for two years, limiting the number of arrivals, and created a huge shortage of staff such as cooks, cleaners and others who did not return due to low wages and poor working conditions.
Some tourism workers on the island of Mykonos, known for tax evasion and cheating tourists with inflated prices, have reportedly had to sleep in their cars, and the sector is having trouble attracting more tourists because they won’t pay well.
Workers who have left tourism, which at its peak employed almost a million people in the country, have taken jobs in other businesses such as trade or couriers, or in permanent jobs instead of seasonal jobs.
The number of workers is so small that it creates problems for restaurants, taverns, hotels and other businesses that rely on them, forcing the Confederation of Hellenic Tourist Accommodation Entrepreneurs (SETKE) to seek help.
They sent a letter to the labor and finance ministers asking them to allow pensioners and teachers to work during the summer months without compromising their pensions, Cathimerini said.
Greece does not allow people in retirement to work without risking their benefits. The practice is said to have been introduced so as not to deprive young people of the opportunity to find work, although some pensioners work for cash.
SETKE said that despite tourists being offered a measly 3 percent pay raise, they don’t bite and avoid the sector in huge numbers, tired of long days on their feet.
The group said there will be another 4 percent increase in low wages in 2023, but “they haven’t paid off and this problem remains unresolved” as workers rely on tips because businesses pay them so little.
SETKE said in a statement that “there is a lot of interest in the job both from retirees who have the ability (physical and mental) to work, and from teachers who either do not work during the summer months or want to have a parallel job.”
The group suggested that the Ministry of Labor provide “incentives for filling jobs with the aforementioned social groups, at least for this year’s tourist season with immediate legislative entry into force and until a final solution is found.”
They asked that working pensioners not lose 30 percent of their benefits because of this, which would destroy their earnings, and that teachers could work in this sector in the summer.
In May, the Hellenic Tourism Confederation (INSETE) issued a warning of what could happen as the government actively promotes tourists and opens the season ahead of schedule, with Greece becoming a 2022 hotspot.
The group stated that despite this and any incentives…