September 22, 2020

Greece Makes Progress in Opening Restricted Professions

ATHENS — Greece has opened up 247 of its 343 “closed professions” — occupations ranging from notary to taxi driver — where access had been subject to a maze of restrictions, government officials said Thursday.

The officials said the deregulated job market offered greater opportunities to the country’s job seekers as new figures showed the unemployment rate edging even higher.

“Of the 343 professions, 72 percent have been fully liberalized,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said during a joint news conference with Costis Hatzidakis, the development minister. Other fields, including law, engineering and architecture, were “being gradually opened up,” he added.

The progress in breaking open restricted-access occupations, something Greece’s foreign creditors have been demanding for the past three years, “is of extreme significance for those who don’t have work and who will now have better access to the job market,” Mr. Hatzidakis said.

His words came as the Greek national statistical service, Elstat, released figures showing that the unemployment rate reached 27 percent in February — up from 26.7 percent in January. The rate was 64.2 percent among Greeks 15 to 24, a record for Greece and the highest level in the euro zone.

A more effective crackdown on tax evasion and the liberalization of closed professions are the two key areas where Greek reforms are lagging, according to a report released earlier this week by the International Monetary Fund, which together with the European Union has extended two bailouts, worth €240 billion, or $315 billion, to Greece since 2010.

The I.M.F.’s report hailed efforts by the country to reduce its budget deficit and debt burden.

Euro zone finance ministers are to decide Monday on the release of a €4.2 billion tranche of aid for the first quarter of the year. Mr. Stournaras said Thursday that he would ask his European peers to approve the release of another installment, worth €3.3 billion, scheduled for the second quarter.

In an interview with state television earlier Thursday, Mr. Stournaras said he believed Greece would return to bond markets by the end of 2014 after bond yields on Wednesday dropped to their lowest levels since last year’s government debt restructuring.

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