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21 June, 2024
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Labor shortage hits Antiparos island

High demand for luxury services drives up costs on Antiparos island



By Aggeliki Spanou

The small Aegean island of Antiparos is in a fever of preparations for the summer’s tourism miracle. The magnitude and type of construction activity (villas with swimming pools etc) point to a massive accumulation of wealth. But the only true measure of wealth is being able to have household help, either because they’re brought in from Athens or because they’re paid all year around so they can be available for a few months during the holidays. Otherwise, the cost of having your house cleaned can come to as much as 40 euros per hour.

Something similar is going on at businesses – retailers and bars/cafe/restaurants – where staff shortages are a huge problem. The challenge remains even when employers offer decent lodgings and wages. That’s why the local “oligarchs” like to say that anyone who has “hands” – staff, that is – is bound to make money, because demand for services is constantly rising.

The easy answer for those looking for staff in vain is that youngsters are lazy and want an easy life even if they’re struggling to make ends meet. They point to agreements for employment that are canceled at the last minute to back their argument.

Is it really that simple, though? The pandemic did, indeed, bring the “great resignation” wave to Greece, with low-skilled workers re-evaluating their priorities and deciding not to give up their lives for a livelihood. That was followed by the “silent resignation” of the modern proletariat of low-income earners in the private sector, who disinvested in their jobs and decided to stick with doing only what was required of them so they wouldn’t get fired, giving up on every ambition of advancement.

The studies, after all, have shown that millennials and zoomers tend to prioritize their mental and emotional health (with less stress), put little stock in improving their social or financial circumstances and adapt to a more meager existence that secures them a calmer way of life.

The numbers, however, are even more revealing.

The number of employees in the private sector in 2023 came to 2,296,845, just as over-65-year-olds made up around 23% of Greece’s overall population. The pool, therefore, is small, particularly when we’re talking about meeting the demands of 26.5 million tourists and counting. As a percentage of Greece’s gross domestic product, tourism accounts for 18.5% (against Spain’s 13.6%, Italy’s 10.2%, Portugal’s 15.8% and France’s 8.2%). Some 800,000 people are estimated to work in Greece’s tourism sector one way or another. The true number is obviously much larger, given the extent of undeclared labor in family-owned businesses. The job vacancies this year are estimated at more than 80,000, with 53,000 being in the hospitality sector and 30,000 in catering.

In other words: The number of young people is dropping, the country’s active population is shrinking, the number of tourists keeps rising, the participation of a low-productivity sector in the economy is growing, the environmental impact of all this is accelerating, the inadequacy of infrastructure is taking on dramatic dimensions and anyone who needs a cleaning lady on Antiparos has about as much chance of finding one as getting a selfie with Tom Hanks, who vacations there.

Cyprus  |  Greece

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