Record unemployment has forced many young Greeks to leave their country, but the decision to uproot is not an easy one to take.
This is the second in a series of articles by students at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on the effects of Greece’s economic crisis. We published the first article,
Greece: Art under Austerity, last week.
In times of economic hardship, many people are driven to leave their homeland to seek a better life in foreign countries. European history is full of examples.
During and after the years of famine in Ireland (1845-52), an estimated one million people — about 15 percent of the population — emigrated, most of them to America.
Between 1850 and 1920, the United States took in another 25 million Europeans, notably Germans, Italians and Russians. Many were farm workers who had lost their livelihood to new agricultural technology.
Greece contributed to that wave of mass migration. According to census figures, it lost more than five percent of its population in the first two decades of the 20th century.
In the next big exodus, in the three decades after World War II, the Greek population declined by a further 14 percent. The United States, Australia and Canada were destinations of choice for many Greeks, but the biggest attraction was now Germany.
Greece has the highest youth jobless rate in the EU.
The past eight years have seen a new wave of emigration from Greece. The driving forces have been record levels of unemployment, particularly among the young, and the removal of barriers to free movement among members of the European Union.
According to the EU’s statistics department, Greece has the highest rate of youth unemployment among the 28 member states: in November 2015, the proportion of 15-24 year-olds out of work in Greece stood at 48 percent, ahead of Spain, with 46 percent, and Croatia at 44 percent.
The countries with the lowest rates were Germany (seven percent), Denmark (10.3 percent) and Austria (11.2 percent), while the figure for the EU as a whole was 20.1 percent and for the Eurozone 22.1 percent.
The organization Greek Manpower Employment estimates that 19.4 percent of Greeks with a bachelor’s degree are out of work.
“Things are going from bad to worse.”
But the Greek crisis is not only numbers but also people behind them.
As the interviews in our video show, the decision to uproot and leave one’s native land is almost always a hard one. Those who take the step rarely do so without some misgivings. For many others, it is just too hard to contemplate.
One of those we interviewed said he was emigrating because “things are going from bad to worse” in Greece, but added what he valued most in this country was human relationships.
Another said she could not imagine leaving Greece and that the politicians should emigrate instead.
Antonis Gardikiotis, Assistant Professor of Social Psychology and Mass Media at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, noted that working or studying abroad is not necessarily negative, provided that one is not forced to do it.
The financial crisis has changed the lives of almost everyone in the country. After meeting these young people, we concluded that there are many aspects to youth unemployment and no simple answers.
Anna Mavrikou and Stella Paisanidi are students at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in the department of Journalism and Mass Media Communication.
Mavrikou is half Greek and half German and tries to combine both lifestyles and ways of thinking. Her hobbies include photography, pastry making and cycling.
Paisanidi is an aspiring reporter with a passion for humanitarian journalism. Her journalistic experience includes working as an editor and as radio broadcaster and presenter.