Getting young Greeks back to well-paying jobs will take Trojan efforts from Europe’s leaders
With 60% of the country’s under-25s jobless, Greece’s youth feel little hope
Geography student George Boukouvalas, 23, who lost his job at a warehouse 14 months ago and has been unable to find work since, plays the guitar in his home at Peristeri suburb in Athens.
The news that European leaders will gather in Berlin for a major summit on tackling youth unemployment tomorrow has generated little hope among young Greeks – affected by the highest unemployment rate among under-25s age cohort in the euro zone – that they will find themselves in secure jobs paying living wages any time soon in their own country.
“The situation here is terrible. Finding a job in the business sector started getting difficult in 2007, but in the last three years it has been total chaos, with nothing available that pays more than €500 a month,” says Christos Simantirakis, a recent economics graduate who has just turned 25.
He’s long given up on the possibility of finding a job commensurate to his degree and his minimum expectations of a decent salary, with a glance at his social circle, confirms the scale of the problem facing him and his peers.
“Out of the 20 or so people I hang out with, seven have work, most of them in cafes or in fast-food delivery, where they are paid very little. Two have set up their own businesses and only one has a pretty good job – he works in shipping, but only earns €900 gross a month,” says Simamtirakis, who lives in Athens.
Forced to emigrate
Like many of his contemporaries, he’s now resigned himself to fact that he will have to emigrate, once he’s completed his compulsory one-year military service. A postgraduate degree in finance or banking in the UK is on the cards and he expects circumstances will dictate he’ll end up staying there.
“I really feel bad about leaving Greece. I wouldn’t mind returning to Greece if there was something worthwhile here to do,” he explains, predicting that Greece won’t make a recovery for at least a decade.
In one of the most alarming Greek statistics of many thrown up by the crisis, Greece now tops the euro zone’s unemployment tables overall and in the politically and socially explosive category of youth.
According to the country’s statistics service Elstat, the unemployment rate for the under-25s was 60 per cent in the first quarter of this year, more than twice as high as the overall figure of 27.4 per cent.
But when one probes the figures by looking at the unemployment ratio that seeks to determine how many of under-25s are looking for work but can’t find it, the data appears less stark, with 71.3 per cent deemed inactive, or not looking for work, and 17.2 per cent classed as unemployed. Nevertheless, only 11.5 per cent are recorded as having jobs.