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Crisis turned out to be the catalyst for the creation of social enterprises.doc

07 March 2012 / 15:03:31  GRReporter
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Victoria Mindova


A new type of entrepreneurship is emerging in Greece after the deterioration of the economic situation in the country. The government and the Ministry of Employment are developing targeted programmes in order to finance companies that will deal with the weakest social circles. State funds for the maintenance of high social benefits are already scarce and the government decided to take targeted actions for the development of the so-called social economy in the private sector.

"We will provide partial funding for the creation of new, or the continuation of existing, business structures "for rapid response" in poorer areas. We will provide an integrated package of services for beneficiaries who will perform socially-oriented activities." These programmes will be implemented with the cooperation of municipalities, which will inform those interested about the opportunities for subsidies. In Greece there are the so called social stores which work with donations and subsidies and which provide food and medicines at much lower than market prices, but these are isolated initiatives in small areas. Through the bill of the Ministry a legal framework will be created for the social enterprises. Through this framework a complete network of similar initiatives can be built which will combine the business initiative with the social economy.

"Our goal is to create around 300 new infrastructure in 40 municipalities with over 80 thousand inhabitants, which will create 1,500 new jobs for young people under 30 years of age. The most important thing, however, are not the new appointments but the services which these new businesses will offer", said the Minister of Employment and Social Security George Koutroumanis. Such projects include the creation of communal kitchens, social stores and other types of services that will be aimed at helping the unemployed, pensioners and large families without regular income. The budget for supporting the social economy is 36 million euro, and 80% of it is intended to subsidize the wages of employees who will work in the social enterprises and 20% for assistance in funding the operating costs.

Six months ago, a programme was also launched to pay for domestic workers with labour stamps (ergosimo), but it turned out that last year it reached an impasse. "We had a negative development of the project with the labour stamps, mainly due to the inability to secure the legal recognition of the temporary residence of the economic immigrants who had entered the country illegally. After we launched the pilot programme, we introduced the respective change in the law to be voted, through which we intended to introduce the labour stamps, but we faced the opposition of New Democracy", said Koutroumanis exclusively for GRReporter when we asked him a question related to this issue. He added that intensive negotiations are currently being held and by April this year, the obstacles will be overcome – labour stamps will become the only way for families to pay the domestics living with them. The advantage for the domestics paid in labour stamps, is that pension and health insurance will be paid with them, which under the current conditions are not covered.

Another initiative that Koutroumanis announced is the creation of information centres and re-qualification of the unemployed. Moreover, a special programme is currently starting for training unemployed people in technical professions. More precisely, an opportunity will be provided to those wishing to find employment in the marble quarries and mines, after receiving the necessary training. Funding for this programme amounts to 38.7 million euro and it will have 6,500 beneficiaries. Estimates are that in April the programme will be updated and training vouchers will be provided to young people in selected areas so as to intensify the freelance work in sectors with high unemployment rate, such as tourism, media, construction and others.

"The high unemployment among young people creates serious and multilateral social problems and turns today's youth into a lost generation," says Koutroumanis. The Minister acknowledged that the programmes of the ministry can not solve the problems of unemployment, but may somewhat ease the situation with the lack of jobs. He stressed that the issue of unemployment will be settled only after resolving the problems of the real economy. "Until then, programmes to stimulate employment should be supported and should be given greater publicity", said the minister. He stressed that lack of awareness is the main reason for not fully assimilating the funds under the current programmes.

The crisis not only made entrepreneurs and the state more responsible for the allocation of capital from the structural funds in Europe, but it also made them more effective. Koutroumanis said that for the last year the number of approved and funded programmes that have a direct effect on employment and the real economy has almost doubled. Just for comparison, he presented data from the beginning of March 2011 and from the same period of 2012. Regarding the indicator of integration projects during the last year the rate was 46.7%, while this year it is 69.2%, which means that the total value of the projects has reached 1.8 billion euro. The number of signed contracts from the total number of approved projects has increased from 27.1 percent in March 2011 to 48.4 percent during the same month of 2012.


Tags: markets economy society social economy labour stamps
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