The government on Tuesday announced a new coupon-based system for paying those employed as domestic workers or farm hands, as well as anyone providing services on an informal, occasional basis, to be officially launched from August 20.
The announcement was made by Labour and Social Insurance Minister George Koutroumanis in Parliament, while briefing a cross-party committee on the findings of a report on the problem of illegal migration.
Under the new system, employers will not pay for such services in cash but in coupons they have paid for in advance, which the recipient will then be able to cash in. The coupons will be available at 600 sale points around the country, with the employer paying the price agreed with the worker for his or her services.
Under the new system, the coupons will be the only legal way to pay for work done for households or individuals, as opposed to business concerns.
The 'work coupons' will originally be supplied by banks and post offices, with plans to also extend distribution to super markets later on. Some super markets have even informed the labour ministry that they might include the new work coupons in their systems of special offers to consumers, based on consumption.
The measure is chiefly designed to ensure that economic migrants, who often find informal employment in homes and farm work, can easily and simply pay social insurance contributions and thus qualify for health care and pensions. The measure is not restricted only to migrant workers but anyone providing work on a less formal basis.
Giving examples, the minister said this form of payment will also be used for at-home calls by hairdressers, private lessons, gardeners or those working on a short-term, temporary basis, such as waiters or singers that appear for one or two nights.
Koutroumanis said the measure was chosen because it would be convenient for both employers and workers, especially in agricultural work where there was extensive contribution-evasion and tax evasion.
The only requirement would be a social insurance number (AMKA) of the employer and employed, with social insurance fund contributions withheld when employees cashed their coupons.
The minister also announced that a draft bill incorporating Community regulations on illegal employment into national law will be ready by the end of August. This will include harsh penalties for those illegally employing migrants, including jail sentences of up to six months for repeat offenders.
He also informed the committee that the ministry had already commission a 'migrant map' for Attica and Thessaloniki in order to determine the "qualitative and quantitative" features of the migrant population and adopt the right policies.
"It is very important for us to have a picture of what is happening in our country exactly, about how many and which migrants are here," he stressed.
The minister also said that the migrants staying in Greece had to be given the right to work so that they would not turn to crime, prompting right-wing MPs to point out that this would be like extending an invitation to illegal migrants to come to Greece.