Will Greece become the first developed nation to fail?
In the early part of the 20th century, there was a large exodus of Greeks leaving their country looking for work. The USA in particular but many other countries too benefited from this emigration. The second half of the 20th century saw yet another wave of Greeks leaving their homeland for employment opportunities - again in the USA but also in Germany, Australia, Canada and other countries.
A BBC report reveals that now Greece finds itself, according to the latest polls, with more than seven out of 10 young Greeks aged 18 to 24 believing that emigration is the only escape for them from the profound economic crisis enveloping their country. Two out of 10 have already applied for jobs and university places abroad. Families are resigning themselves to losing their youngsters to this diaspora. There is little incentive for them to stay – for there is such little work available for them in Greece that youth unemployment is reaching more than 50%.
In the past few months, the number of Greeks enquiring about positions abroad, attending job fairs from foreign employers, or simply packing up and leaving, has significantly increased. The Greek Manpower Employment Organization reported that the number of enquiries they have received from people interested in working overseas has risen by up to 20% this year. Other statistics corroborate this finding. The British Council in Athens noted that it has seen a 50% surge in attendance at its education fairs compared with last year. Many commentators are saying that this flow may soon turn into a torrent as the harsh reality of the recession bites deeper and unemployment continues inexorably to rise.
Lois Labrianidis, Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Macedonia, is an economist who has led a research team looking at Greek emigration. The research showed – perhaps unsurprisingly - that a high number of Greeks living abroad have advanced qualifications. Such Greeks were spread across 74 countries, with the largest numbers in Britain and the USA. Of these ex-patriot Greeks interviewed, 20% had a bachelor’s degree, 73% had a master’s and 51% had PhDs. 41% had obtained their degrees from one of the top 100 universities in the world. No Greek university is on that list. More than 60% had not even tried to find a job in Greece. Labrianidis noted that while a university degree might appear to increase the chance of employment, in Greece this was not always the case. In an economy based around services and tourism, rather than research and development, jobs are hard to find for those with advanced degrees.
Interestingly, The New York Times – Europe reported in April 2012 that Germany was experiencing a shortage of educated workers, and that it had begun to look south for a solution. In Germany in 2011 - even though deaths once again exceeded births - the German population grew due to net immigration of 240,000 people, nearly double the 128,000 net gain in 2010. Although it was countries such as Poland and Romania that sent the most, German government statistics showed thousands more coming from the economic crisis-stricken southern nations.
Not only does Germany insist on “austerity” as a way out for the beleaguered southern European nations in general and Greece in particular – but global economics seem to be depleting these nations of their skilled labour. Austerity programmes do not seem to be a solution to the eurozone’s economic malaise; austerity programmes without a skilled labour force seem even more unlikely to deliver southern European countries from economic contraction.
Will an outcome of this fundamentally-flawed Eurozone experiment cause Greece to become the first “failed” developed country?
Last Updated (Monday, 02 July 2012 08:22)