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Greece’s jobless rate continues to rise under the austerity linked to its international bailout.
The unemployment rate hit a new record high of 27.6 percent of the workforce in May. April’s number was revised upwards to 27 percent.
The country is in its the sixth year of recession and job seekers are pessimistic.
In Athens, a 60-year-old unemployed woman said: “Greece is not on the road to recovery. We’ve returned to the 1950s. I was a child then and I know what happened, we are starting from scratch.”
While a man spoke of his despair: “The business I worked for has closed. I am 66-years-old, unemployed and won’t get a pension. I go through rubbish bins looking for something to eat.”
The young are also hard-hit. Nearly two thirds of 15 to 24 year olds are out of work.
Ordinary Greeks are suffering the austerity imposed by international lenders to slash government debt levels, but only austerity means a downward economic spiral.
Greece may be in the worst state but analyst Patrick Armstrong says the whole region is not growing as it should: “Europe’s still not really addressed the core issues that led to the European crisis so I don’t think we’re going to have sustainable growth in Europe. You really need the ECB to do unconventional policies like every other central bank’s been doing , and I think a weak euro will facilitate some growth but we’re not there yet.”
Improving exports and a strong tourism season – with an expected record 17 million visitors – should help to contain the further rise in joblessness expected this year.
But the Greek central bank has projected that unemployment will peak at twenty eight percent, before it starts to decline in 2015.
As the latest jobless figures were released Greece’s Ministry of Labour said it has launched a crackdown on people working without paying taxes.
Officials are suspicious because in some popular tourist areas the number of people being hired has fallen, even at the height of the holiday season.
They include the islands of Thasos, Zakynthos and Kalymnos and the area around Chalkidiki.
The authorities also said that Greek shop owners who have resisted on-site tax checks and found not to be issuing receipts are receiving penalties including being closed for one-month.
The General Secretariat of Revenues has ordered the shuttering of 12 premises for such non-compliance and said 14 more faced similar action in the near future.
With millions of visitors crowding the country’s beaches in the holiday month of August, tax inspectors have focused on popular resorts where tax evasion is traditionally rampant.