After working abroad for a decade, chef Nikolas Tsimidakis returned home from Dubai last year in hopes that Greece’s post-pandemic recovery and growth in Mediterranean tourism would give it a good job.
Like many others, he was disappointed. As the new blockades delayed the reopening of Greece and the start of the tourist season, Tsimidakis made an effort to find a job that offered security and a decent salary. Reluctantly, he decided to return to the Gulf after finding a well-paid job in Abu Dhabi.
“I had two [job] offers[in Greece]. . . But no one could tell me when the hotel would open or until when, ”Tsimidakis said.
Decisions like his have explained why Greece currently suffers from a labor shortage in tourism. Normally the sector accounts for one-fifth of economic production, but strives to prepare for the crucial summer season, as potential candidates for restaurant and bar jobs prevent the risks of renewing Covid-19 restrictions from closing companies.
The problem will pose a serious obstacle to the country’s recovery from the pandemic, given the importance of tourism to the economy. “This is the first time we have such a shortage in the industry,” said George Kavathas, president of the federation of Greek restaurants and related professions.
Many other countries, such as Germanyit has also been difficult to hire bar and restaurant staff as the pandemic eases. The difference with Greece is the relative size and economic weight of the sector.
It usually employs more than 432,000 people, which is 10% of the national population, almost twice as much as Spain. So any problem can have macroeconomic consequences.
HSBC predicts that the return of tourism as a whole will boost Greece’s growth by two percentage points this year, after meeting two-thirds of last year’s 8 percent drop in gross domestic product.
Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, meanwhile, predicts tourism receipts will reach 8 billion euros in 2021 – less than half of 18 billion euros in 2019, but the mid-year pandemic decline has doubled when industry revenues have fallen to 4 billion euros.
But economists have now warned that labor shortages, with Greece’s 16.5 per cent unemployment rate, despite being the highest in the EU, could hamper economic growth and contaminate the economy and revenue projections.
“The main sectors that create jobs. . . such as tourism, retail and entertainment are occurring with uncertainty, “said IOBE CEO Nikos Vettas, an economic reflection.” It is not clear how quickly Covid will move to previous levels. ”
Hercules Zisimopoulos, owner of a bar, hotel and restaurant, who also leads a group in the local tourism industry in the Mykonos party, blamed the permanent blockade cycle and easing restrictions for not re-employing workers.
“The constant opening and closing of restaurants and bars in the previous year has created a great deal of uncertainty, and staff are afraid they will force us to close again,” he said. “That’s why they’re looking for other types of work,” such as distributor drivers.
The offer of cafes, bars and restaurants that do not offer attractive jobs that make up the problem is too much. After the financial crisis, it served to improve the hospitality sector for many who were unemployed or low-skilled.
92% of all new businesses that opened between 2010 and 2020 were in the food and beverage sector, Kavathas estimates, creating a long-running crisis of oversupply in the pandemic.
“People think it’s an easy profession, anyone can open a coffee shop, but it’s not true,” Kavathas said. “Excessive supply. . . it hurts everyone because quality drop and limited yields are divided among more. . . What we see now is the tip of the iceberg. “
Some restaurants say government policies to alleviate the economic impact of Covid-19 have exacerbated the problem. With subsidies still paid to staff who have closed restaurants and bars, indoor dining halls still cannot be reopened.
Many workers prefer to pay 534 euros a month to the state, rather than work in a restaurant where salaries start at about 850 euros a month, the restaurants say. The grant project has cost the government nearly a billion euros since the pandemic began.
“Many are happy with the benefits they get and are not looking for work,” said Nektarios Nikolopoulos, owner of the restaurant and bar, which is located on the island of Athens and Serifos.
Others see the shortage of workers as a symptom of wider problems in Greek labor markets.
Country a decade-long economic crisis it has led to lower wages that have not yet been recovered, youth unemployment is among the highest in Europe and has led to the emigration of many skilled workers, such as chef Tsimidakis.
Vettas said the shortage of workers is “a sign of dysfunction in the labor market” and blamed “too much regulation” on “flexible” employment in Greece.
Meanwhile, even the most famous places in Greece are concerned.
Lefteris Lazarou, a Michelin-starred chef, said the summer season has been the first in 35 years as his famous restaurant in Varoul – on the coast of Piraeus, just outside Athens – has made efforts to fill 76 jobs, which is usually taken in flash.
“Every year, my box was so full of resumes from people who wanted to work here, and I couldn’t get past them,” he said. “Now, I don’t even have one.”