Brain Drain: Educated Greeks Flee a Nation In Economic Ruin

As Greece stumbles from one economic disappointment to the next, the country is now exporting something it desperately needs to retain; young, educated workers.

Thousands of skilled Greeks are heading overseas to further their careers, leading to fears the deeply troubled nation could be facing a brain drain.

Recruitment agencies in the UK have reported a steady rise in the number of Greek nationals seeking employment in construction, teaching and IT. Online agency CV Library reports the number of visits to its website has more than doubled in the past year.

According to Sky News, the number of 25 to 34-year-olds seeking information about working in Britain has risen by 58% since the same time last year. Mike Powell, head of sales at CV Library, told Sky News:

“The numbers that are coming through are pretty phenomenal – it’s record numbers week after week.

“We’re now experiencing a 26% increase week-on-week, and we think that July will actually see more visitors than last month in June by a 100%.”

Outside of the EU, the other choice destination for Greeks is Australia. The land Down Under has long been a favoured place for Greeks seeking to start a new life and the city of Melbourne has an estimated 300,000 Greeks, the largest grouping outside of Athens and Thessaloniki.

Welfare groups estimate between 10,000 and 20,000 Greek nationals have come to Australia since mid-2013, the majority of them dual nationals or with family ties to to the country.

“They’re coming back with nothing – just a suitcase and trying to start up again,” George Spiliotis, chief executive of the Melbourne-based Greek Welfare Society, told DNA news service.

Fotakis, who owned a cafe in Greece and now has a part-time job as a journalist with a Greek-language newspaper in Melbourne, arrived alone in December. It took him three months to find work and his wife and two toddler children followed him in March.

“I have heard people here complain they can’t find work and they have to spend four months looking,” Fotakis said. “This is a joke. People over the age of 20 in Greece are ruined.”

Greece has been down this road before. More than one million Greeks left the country immediately after World War II in the years between 1950 and 1974. Most emigrated to Western Europe, the U.S., Canada and Australia.

The reason then was eerily similar to today. Economic and political instability often motivated their move, both connected with the consequences of a 1946-1949 civil war and the 1967-1974 period of military junta rule that followed.

According to statistics from the US-based Migration Policy Institute, in the period 1955-1973 Germany absorbed 603,300 Greek migrants, Australia 170,700, the U.S. 124,000, and Canada 80,200. The majority of these came from rural areas and they supplied both the national and international labour markets.

Anyone thinking that this latest mass exodus is going to stop anytime soon needs only to look at economic forecasts to realise that what is now a flow of departees might soon become a flood.

The country is likely to suffer a deep recession this year, according to a new report from influential thinktank IOBE. It believes GDP could fall by 2.5 per cent this year, due to the impact of capital controls on the economy.

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