The opposition, especially the main opposition, is in a constant effort to deconstruct the social characteristics of government policy. No surprise! We have been accustomed to this for two and a half years. Only their effort collides with reality. Because the social policy we implement is characterized by three elements:

– First, the significant increase in funds for social policy

– Secondly, the positive and measurable results we have achieved, which are reflected, inter alia, in the clear reduction of unemployment.

– Third, the changes that will take place in 2022 and which will have a positive reflection on the employed, the unemployed, the most vulnerable!

The ministry’s projected expenditures for 2022 reach 21.6 billion euros. Even if we remove the measures for the coronavirus, they are higher by 10% in relation to the corresponding budget of SYRIZA for 2019. An increase that is reflected in both the policies for the labor market and those for the insurance funds, welfare, equality. It turns out that, regardless of the specific circumstances of the pandemic, the budget for social policy is steadily increasing under the government of New Democracy. And it leads to clear results in the social sector, most notably the increase in disposable income of workers and the significant reduction in unemployment.

How did we achieve this? With the over 9 billion euro measures for the coronavirus for 3 million employed and unemployed, with which we supported people, who were in great need, and maintained jobs. With the reduction of insurance contributions by 3.9%, which alleviated the non-wage costs of companies and increased the disposable income of employees. With the law on labor protection, with which we combined the goal of strengthening competitiveness with the goal of real protection of workers. With regulations, on the one hand, such as the strengthening of overtime in the European average, the increase of the branches that are allowed to operate on Sundays according to European standards and the reduction of the administrative burden for companies with the simplification of ERGANI. And, on the other hand, with the settings for the Digital Work Card, the new, larger parental leave – which is already a reality in the labor market, the measures against violence and harassment at work, the new rights of the self-employed in delivery and courier.

All this, in combination with the tax relief of the Ministry of Finance and the increase of the minimum wage, had as a result to increase the disposable income of the employees who are paid with the minimum wage from 305 to 534 euros per year. However, they also had the effect of reducing unemployment from 17.2%, which we received from SYRIZA in July 2019, to 13.3% today. But we do not dwell on them. We continue our effort in 2022 on many different fronts:

1 We utilize resources of 5 billion euros from the Recovery Fund and the new NSRF. With training programs, for new jobs, for vulnerable social groups: the disabled, mothers, young people.
2 We implement the Digital Work Card which is a guarantee for the employees’ hours and we proceed to the establishment of the new Independent Labor Inspection Authority that will ensure independence in the controls.
3 We bring a bill for the modernization of OAED and training in Greece. In order not to waste resources and to make training an essential resource for the future of the employed and the unemployed.
4 We proceed to the establishment of the new Auxiliary Insurance Fund (TEKA) as a result of the Insurance Reform for the New Generation. Which introduces the “individual piggy banks” in the supplementary pensions of young people and creates the conditions for them to receive allowances that will be – as European experience shows – greater than 43% to 68%!
5 We promote the Disability Card for 180,000 disabled people and the Personal Assistant, initially for 1,000 of our fellow human beings with severe disabilities.
6 We are launching the “Neighborhood Nanny” program for the care of infants aged from two months to two and a half years in areas without a high density of nurseries, but also the program for 120 childcare units in large enterprises for 2,500 infants and toddlers.
7 We improve the service for citizens. I single out the single number “1555”, to which more than 700,000 calls have been made in less than 5 months, with an immediate response rate that closes the issue at 85%!
8 We continue the effort for pensions. 2021 is a record year as already at the end of November we have exceeded 200,000 pension processed. Next year we will do even better and by the end of the first half of 2022 we will solve the issue of outstanding main pensions!
9 We are moving forward with the modernization bill of EFKA for the substantial upgrade of the operation of the most problematic organization of the public administration. The new management methods we introduce will make the daily life of the employees themselves easier. But also the lives of the 6.5 million insured, who owe nothing to suffer for decades from the public administration!
10 Very soon the process of raising the minimum wage begins, which will reflect the growth of the economy and lead to a social growth dividend for workers.

It is, I believe, obvious from the above that social policy is very high on the agenda of this government. That the workers, the unemployed, the retired, the disabled, the weaker strata are at the heart of our policy. Not with words, but with deeds!

Mr. Kostis Hatzidakis is Minister of Labor and Social Affairs.

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