9.3.1 Migration and the Labour Market in the Context of the Economic Recession
The Greek labor market has undergone a number of major changes in recent years due to the economic crisis and fiscal adjustment programs. The emergence of economic hardship and austerity policies led to rising unemployment and steadily falling GDP. In addition, the institutional protection framework for the labor market is not regulated. The main changes since 2010 are based on five key axes: first, the decline in the role of full employment and the expansion of flexible industrial relations, which favor sectoral rather than collective agreements between social partners. Secondly, the weakening of collective agreements and the shrinkage of wages. Thirdly, the spread of flexible working hours, fully adapted to the needs of markets. Fourth, the gradual liberalization of the institutional framework of redundancies. Fifth, the convergence of working conditions in the public and private sectors, leading to significant cuts in the employment protection of civil servants (Kouzis 2016).
At the same time, issuing residence permits has often been an obstacle to integrating migrants into the labor market. Greek migration policy and the subsequent access of migrants to the labor market was for a long time connected to the issuing of two permits, a work permit and a residence permit, particularly since the work permit was a prerequisite for the residence permit required for the purposes of working (Kapsalis 2018b). In addition, migration law aimed mainly to regularize illegal migration rather than promoting legal migration for employment purposes. Practically, the only two options for legal migration (that are often interconnected), that of recall/metaklissisFootnote 6 and seasonal work are almost exclusively connected to the agricultural sector and their effectiveness is questionable (Triandafyllidou 2014). The ineffective application of these schemes results from the fact that, given the flexibility of labor needs in those sectors where migrants are employed, employers frequently demand changes to the needs they have for a workforce. It also seems that no substantive procedures for a dialogue between the various actors involved in the planning process have been put in place.
The interconnection between the economic recession, subsequent changes in the labor market and those legislative initiatives that aim to offer illegal migrants the opportunity to gain a legal status have led to the following paradox: there is a trend towards the greater convergence of the labor relations of Greek workers with those of MRAs than in the past. However, this trend is not necessarily due to any improvement in the working conditions of foreign workers. On the contrary, it is the shrinking of labor rights and deregulation of the labor market that have exacerbated the working conditions of Greek citizens. As a result, there is a kind of convergence of common labor law with migration law, in a downward spiral (Kapsalis 2018a). As Kapsalis (2018a) states, it is of particular interest that in Greece, before the economic crisis, a migrant labor law with residual labor protection features was established, while during the Great Recession a corresponding residual labor protection framework was applied to native workers. Therefore, the labor protection both for native workers and MRAs has become a race to the bottom.
9.3.2 The National Legislation on Migrant Access to the Greek Labor Market
Since the beginning of the 1990s and the transformation of Greece from a sending to a receiving migration country, migration laws have clearly connected the stay of immigrants to their employment status and financial resources. In reality, the basic requirements for the legal residence of immigrants in Greece were, and remained so to a lesser extent, structured around the existence of a job, the filing of a formal employment contract, the compulsory presentation of a minimum number of social security (insurance) stampsFootnote 7 per year and the obligation to have an annual minimum income.
As mentioned above, the method of metaklissis, first introduced by Law 1975/1991, remains one of the main paths for legal immigration in Greece, despite the fact that its previous application in the main sectors in which migrants are employed (construction, catering, small factories and retail services) proved rather unrealistic (Triandafyllidou 2014). In this procedure, there is a pre-approval of the entry of a foreign worker for a specific employer and for a specific type of work. Individual employment contracts are then concluded, with state control being exerted at all stages of their implementation. In the last quarter of each second year, the maximum number of dependent jobs allocated to Non-EU nationals per region and occupation is determined by the regional authorities. The same decision may provide for an increase in the maximum number of positions by up to 10% in order to cover unforeseen and emergency needs.
Given the difficulties for an effective application of the metaklissis scheme, in particular during the period of the economic recession, national legislation aimed at reducing the risk of increasing irregularity among migrants by increasing the validity of residence permits and reducing financial and duration of employment requirements for their renewal. In this respect, one of the most significant innovations of the 2014 Code (Law 4251/2014) was the abolition of the obligation to produce a written employment contract as a condition for renewal of a residence permit for the purposes of paid employment. Thus, the reduced number of insurance stamps, the fulfilment of tax obligations and the existence of a valid health booklet are now the main requirements for the renewal of the residence permit related to employment. It is worth noting that, with the adoption of a Joint Ministerial Decision (51738/2014), the number of stamps needed for the renewal of legal residence becomes equal to the number of stamps required for the renewal of health insurance (50 stamps). These developments entail moving from a framework of work-centric immigration legislation to a framework geared towards maintaining legal residence due to the long-standing social ties immigrants may have developed (Kapsalis 2018a). This shift was due to the high unemployment rates, which meant that immigrants were unable to complete the minimum number of stamps per year and consequently, large groups of immigrant populations who have lived in the country for years would return, after many years, once again to an illegal residence status.
It is also worth noting that the Code regulates the situation of migrant investors wishing to settle in Greece. Thus, Article 16 states that Non-EU nationals are permitted to enter and stay in Greece in order to make an investment that will have a positive impact on national growth and the economy. A prerequisite for allowing them to enter and reside in Greece is a motion from the Department of Intragroup Services and Direct Investments to the Ministry for Development and Competitiveness, which means that immigrants with a high financial standing (250,000 euros or more) have the opportunity to pursue professional activities in Greece as they are granted a 5-year residence permit.
In 2015 a new law sought improvements to issues related to the participation of migrants in the labor market. More than the amendments of the Code of Greek Citizenship and the Migration Code, the new Law (4332/2015) aimed at incorporating two EU directives into national legislation. Directive 2011/98/EU concerned the single application procedure for a single permit to stay and to work, already introduced by previous national legislation (Law 3386/2005), to be issued to Non-EU nationals, and a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State. It also incorporates Directive 2014/36/EU on the conditions of entry and residence of Non-EU nationals for seasonal work. The most relevant provisions of Law 4332/2015 are related to the equal treatment of migrant workers, holders of a single permit, and of seasonal workers with EU nationals. Thus (in Articles 21A and B), both categories of Non-EU workers are entitled to equal treatment with EU nationals as regards the terms of employment (including minimum working age, working conditions, working hours and leave and holidays), the right to strike and take industrial action, education and vocational training, as well as the recognition of diplomas, certificates and other professional qualifications.
In 2016 the Greek state issued the special Circular 27430/2016, which gives access to the labor market to those immigrants who find themselves in a situation between illegality and legality, known as ‘para-legality’ (Kapsalis 2018b). This intermediate category includes irregular immigrants whose order to leave the country was postponed for humanitarian reasons and so they were granted a special certificate to remain in the country for 6 months, without the right to access social integration programs, and which is renewable for 6 months. The status of ‘para-legality’ offers limited access to the labor market in specific sectors (such as agriculture, animal husbandry and domestic work) and geographical destinations (mainly rural areas).
9.3.3 National Legislation for the Participation of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the Greek Labor Market
Aside from migrants, national legislation aims to regularize access to the labor market for the beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers (along with holders of a residence permit for humanitarian reasons).
In particular, refugee legislation is based on the Geneva Convention (1951) and mainly on Articles 17, 18, 19 and 24, which refer to the social rights of recognized refugees to social security and employment. In Greek legislation those rights are currently extended to persons who have been granted residence on subsidiary protection grounds. A relevant special regulation for the access to the labor market of the two groups of beneficiaries of international protection is contained in Presidential Decree 141/2013. This Presidential Decree aims to incorporate Directive 2011/95/EU into domestic law. Article 27 of the Presidential Decree (incorporating Article 26 of the Community Directive) provides that beneficiaries of international protection are permitted to engage in employed or self-employed activity, in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree 189/1998 (A 140). This means that the beneficiaries of international protection must hold a permit to work, in the case of a salaried activity, or prove the existence of the necessary capital in the case of an independent economic activity.
Although Presidential Decree 141/2013 does not contain anything new regarding the preconditions for the access of the beneficiaries of international protection to the labor market, it provides clear improvements for other relevant issues. In particular, articles 27–31 foresee that persons who have been recognized as refugees or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection can participate in employment-related adult education programs, vocational training, including training courses for upgrading skills, workplace practice and counselling by employment services with the same conditions applicable to Greek citizens. These articles also allow these groups to utilize the available procedures for the recognition of diplomas, certificates and other formal qualifications as well as be assessed according to the same conditions as Greek citizens as regards the social security system, working conditions and health care. Nonetheless, despite the institutionalization of access to these benefits, policies and services for delivering these provisions have not yet been developed as public policies but take more the form of specific activities undertaken by NGOs (see Sect. 9.3.4).
The access of beneficiaries of international protection to the labor market was further facilitated by Law 4375/2016. This Law, which governs the current legislation on access to employment, is an adaptation of Greek Legislation to the provisions of Directive 2013/32/EU. The most important change brought about by the law is the abolition of the requirement for the possession of a permit to work as a condition for participation in the labor market (Ministerial Circular 17131/313/12-04-2016). Thus, beneficiaries of international protection and their families have the right to employment under the same conditions as nationals. The only condition for their participation in the labor market is the possession of the required residence permits. The Law also contains similar provisions (Article 69) as those of Presidential Decree 141/2013 on the same work conditions and access to services for beneficiaries of international protection and EU nationals. In practical terms, the labor rights and obligations of beneficiaries of international protection are defined by the same legal regime as for Greek workers. This arrangement concerns both the individuals themselves and the members of their families (Marouda and Sarandi 2017).
As for asylum seekers, Law 4375/2016 also facilitates their access to the labor market. As mentioned, the law abolishes the requirement for the possession of a permit in order to work, a provision foreseen by Presidential Decree 189/1998. Thus, according to article 71, asylum seekers have access to salaried employment and to the provision of services or work if they are in possession of the ‘international protection applicant card’ or ‘asylum seeker’s card’. In practical terms, there is no time restriction from the moment that an application is submitted to when the applicant can access the labor market. A last important point is that, as regards free access to public health services and medical treatment for uninsured citizens and the vulnerable population (Joint Ministerial Decision 25132/4-4-2016), asylum seekers now have access to health services on the same terms as nationals.
Despite the formulation of an institutional framework that gives asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection access to the Greek labor market, the reality is that these people remain mostly in the camps, with only a minority living in housing structures (Niemann and Zaun 2017; The Greek Ombudsman 2017; Kourachanis 2018). Their integration into the Greek labor market is thus extremely difficult in practice. The development of mechanismsFootnote 8 to diagnose labor market needs that are compatible with their professional skills and the formulation of coherent employment policies are key challenges for their integration into Greek society (Karandinos 2016; Koulocheris 2017). Applying such mechanisms to channel MRAs into the gaps found in the labor market may in the future be a viable solution for their integration into the labor market.
9.3.4 Further Involvement of NGOs in Issues Related to the Integration of Refugees and Asylum Seekers into the Labor Market
The 2015 refugee crisis marked a kind of turning point in the role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as service provider for refugees and asylum seekers in Greece (Bagavos et al. 2019). First, the institutional involvement of NGOs is foreseen by recent asylum legislation (Law 4375/2016). In particular, if a Regional Asylum Office, Reception and Identification Centre, Temporary Reception Structure or Temporary Accommodation Structure has problems in operating smoothly, the processing of some tasks can be entrusted for a set period of time to civil society actors that meet the appropriate standards of quality and safety and have received the necessary permission. Exceptions to this option include those tasks that involve the exercise of public authority, such as the issuance of administrative acts, the examination of applications for international protection, the conduct of interviews and providing applicants with travel or identity documents.
Second, CSOs and NGOs in particular have undertaken a large spectrum of activities related to humanitarian aid, human rights, human trafficking, legal and administrative assistance, advocacy work, accommodation and housing, dissemination and information, socio-economic integration and culture. In practice, CSOs especially are attempting to manage the governmental gap of a migration policy designed with the integration of MRAs in mind. In this context NGOs in particular have been overseeing a majority of services, such as the provision of language courses, skills development training, and employability programs which aim to help integrate refugees and asylum seekers into the labor market. The focus is mainly on job searching techniques and curriculum vitae improvements rather than actually finding job positions for the persons concerned.
Empirical findings based on the opinions of refugees and asylum seekers themselves (Bagavos et al. 2019) seem to indicate that although CSOs have made an extremely significant contribution to humanitarian aid, legal and administrative assistance, the protection of human rights and the dissemination of information, they did not appear to be as successful in meeting refugees’ and asylum seekers needs’ in terms of their integration into the labor market. This was for a variety of reasons, such as: there were no expected results from the services provided; the actions did not have a follow-up; fragmented funding meant that services were provided for a limited period of time; or because CSOs and NGOs in particular were being asked to fill the gap created by the inability of public actors, supported by the public administration, to provide a clear integration policy. It is also probably related to the fact that, in some cases, refugees and asylum seekers perceive CSOs and NGOs as employment services providers that therefore have expectations that ultimately are not met.
It is, however, worth noting that although NGOs are key actors in the provision of employability services, public authorities have recently attempted to take a much more active role in this area. The trend towards the greater involvement of public authorities in the socio-economic integration of MRAs is reflected in the skills recognition activities. In that respect, perhaps the most typical example is the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees,Footnote 9 which assesses refugees’ education level, work experience and language proficiency in the absence of full documentation, by using a tested methodology and a structured interview. This was started in 2017 as a pilot project under the responsibility of the Council of Europe and involves several national and international actors, in particular the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs. At the same time, the initiative of the Athens Coordination Centre for Migrants and RefugeeFootnote 10 Issues, where someone can attend job counseling sessions as well as other services, such as Greek and English language courses, must be seen as a sign of the further involvement of the public authorities in the social integration of MRAs.
9.3.5 Anti-discrimination Legislation and Legal Instruments to Fight Informal Employment and the Exploitation of Workers
The fight against discrimination is another dimension that can facilitate MRAs’ access to the labor market. This is foreseen in Law 4443/2016 (Article 14), which aims to promote the principle of equal treatment and anti-discrimination: (a) on grounds of race, color, national or ethnic origin and generations; (b) religious or other beliefs, disability or chronic illness, age, or social status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender in the field of employment and work; and (c) on the exercise of workers’ rights in the context of the free movement of labor.
Under the 2016 law, the principle of equal treatment concerns: (a) conditions of access to employment and in the area of employment in general; (b) access to all types and levels of vocational guidance, apprenticeship, vocational training, retraining and vocational retraining, including the acquisition of practical professional experience; (c) working and employment conditions, in particular with regard to remuneration, dismissal, health and safety at work and, in the event of unemployment, reintegration and rehabilitation, as well as re-employment; and (d) membership of and participation in a workers’ or employers’ trade union or in any professional organization.
Over the recent period, the Greek state was more actively involved in the fight against undeclared work, an issue of significant importance for the country’s labor market (ILO 2016; The Greek Ombudsman 2016). Specifically, according to the unpublished report regarding the plan ‘Artemis’, the percentage of undeclared work decreased from 19.2% in 2014 to 9% in 2018.Footnote 11 The introduction of the method of payment and the retention of insurance contributions on the basis of the ergossimo was introduced, as a measure against undeclared work, for the first time in Greek legislation with Law 3863/2010. This is a kind of a special pay cheque for workers doing non-fixed or casual work (a form of employment in which the worker is not entitled to the regular provision of work) with one or more employers. The ergossimo does not focus on businesses or individual employers, but on workers, in particular those in specific disciplines, occupations or jobs (such as domestic workers, construction workers and agricultural workers). Consequently, it is a means of combating undeclared work, in particular tax evasion, and it is as such that it has been classified in the Greek legal order. It mainly concerns providers of services to households, such as domestic workers, (Kapsalis 2015). Several modifying interventions for the measure regarding were made in the following years. These amendments are mainly related to procedures for extending the measure of ergossimo to other sectors of employment as well as the procedures for monitoring its implementation. It is also worth noting that Article 2 of Law 4225/2014 attempts to include ergossimo in the labor inspections carried out by IKA (Social Insurance Institute). A large proportion of recipients who were targeted by this measure were immigrants, both domestic and farm workers. This is a positive measure that can lead to a greater reduction of undeclared work.
Lastly, in 2012, the Greek state incorporated EU Directive 2009/52/EU with Law 4052/2012. This Directive imposes minimum standards for the sanctions and measures against employers who illegally employ third-country nationals. The aim is to combat illegal immigration by preventing the illegal employment of migrants without residence permits in the Member States of the European Union. In Greek law this is reflected in Article 79 of the relevant law, which explicitly mentions the ban on the employment of illegally resident third-country nationals and in Article 80 which details the obligations of employers. These provisions set the framework for the application of labor protection measures.