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1 For seventh year, Greece economy to shrink (BBC) The Greek economy will keep shrinking next year and may need more financial help, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says. The OECD’s forecast of 0.4% contraction contrasts with the Greek government’s prediction of 0.6% growth in 2014. The OECD also said the recession in Greece had been “much deeper than expected” and that debt would not fall below 160% of GDP before 2020. It would mark the seventh consecutive year of recession for Greece.
The study also said that falling prices in Greece could put pressure on the country’s ability to meet the terms of its bailout. This year, the Greek economy experienced deflation – falling prices – for the first time in more than four decades. Some analysts say falling prices in Greece are not entirely unwelcome, since it could make companies more competitive abroad and ease pressure on households.
2 Jobless future for South Africa (Denise Williams, Katharine Child, Quinton Mtyala & Jan Bornman in Johannesburg Times) Adcorp’s labour economist, Loane Sharpe, says about 133,000 [of the estimated 700,000 matriculants] will go into further education. SA Institute of Race Relations researcher Boitumelo Sehlatswe said there were 500,000 young people, made up of those who did not finish school, in addition to the matriculants looking for work.
Sharpe said the unemployment rate for those aged between 15 and 24 was 49.9%, translating into 3.4 million youths who either were not looking for work or could not find it and were not in school or varsity. Across all age groups, 13.2 million South Africans were unemployed, he said. Sharpe said even with a skill, chances of finding a job would be an uphill battle as recruitment for permanent positions deteriorated. “The labour market is in a crisis … the rate of dismissals at the highest level in 10 years.”
Pietman Roos, SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry economist, said the chamber met Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to discuss the scope of application for the employment tax incentive, otherwise known as the youth wage subsidy. Roos said the service industry, which was labour intensive, could absorb more entrants to the job market. For this to happen, employers needed clarity so that they could plan ahead before the scheme was expected to start in April .
3 Sweden can close some prisons (Erwin James in The Guardian) Swedish prisons have long had a reputation around the world as being liberal and progressive. So much so that in 2005 even Saddam Hussein requested to be transferred to a Swedish prison to await his trial. But are the country’s prisons a soft option? The head of Sweden’s prison and probation service, Nils Oberg, announced in November that four Swedish prisons are to be closed due to an “out of the ordinary” decline in prison numbers.
Although there has been no fall in crime rates, between 2011 and 2012 there was a 6% drop in Sweden’s prisoner population, now a little over 4,500. A similar decrease is expected this year and the next. Oberg admitted to being puzzled by the unexpected dip, but expressed optimism that the reason was to do with how his prisons are run.
Jail terms in Sweden rarely exceed 10 years; those who receive life imprisonment can still apply to the courts after a decade to have the sentence commuted to a fixed term, usually in the region of 18 to 25 years. Sweden was the first country in Europe to introduce the electronic tagging of convicted criminals.
One strong reason for the drop in prison numbers might be the amount of post-prison support available in Sweden. A confident probation service is tasked not only with supervising those on probation but is also guaranteed to provide treatment programmes for offenders with drug/alcohol or violence issues. The service is assisted by around 4,500 lay supervisors.