On leaving home

I keep writing about the refugees and immigrants arriving in droves upon Greek shores, but there is also outgoing traffic. Many Greeks are leaving the country in the third major wave of emigration to be observed in the last 100 years.
In the 20th and 21st centuries alone, nearly two million (1.764.000) Greeks have moved away. Why? What makes someone leave behind everything they hold dear?

The two major causes are war and poverty. At the moment we are lucky not to be at war; but we are experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis, and more than 420.000 Greeks within the 15-64 age range have left since 2008. Here I would like to point out that we are talking about a population of only around 11 million, of whom one million are immigrants themselves.

In the last 100 years, there have been three instances of mass exodus, all connected with financial crisis expect for the late sixties, where the reasons were predominantly political (to do with the dictatorship of 1967-1974). In the first phase, circa 1903-1917, those who emigrated were largely uneducated men, peasants and workers, who found employment as servants and laborers, mostly in ‘transatlantic’ countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, and Brazil. The second wave was chiefly made up of young people, unemployed or manual laborers, who found work as factory hands primarily in Germany and Belgium.


Cheerful sketch of the day by Leo
Cheerful drawing of the day, by Leo


The big difference is that today the people who are moving out are young, educated and experienced professionals. Specific countries appear to be absorbing specific types of professionals; for example, finance graduates have gone primarily to the U.K., medical graduates to Germany, computer science graduates to the United States, and engineers to the Middle East. So we are talking about a real brain drain, which is the last thing Greece needs at the moment.
This exodus is not surprising, considering nearly 1 million jobs have been lost in Greece over the last six years, according to an analysis by the Hellenic Statistical Authority.

A study made by Endeavor Greece, an international group that supports entrepreneurship, showed that a stunning 46% of Greeks living in the country are considering relocating.
This is a very disturbing statistic: at a time when the European Union wants Greece to try to pick itself up by its bootstraps and restructure its economy, the brainpower needed for this transformation is leaving.

What would make these people stay? A promise of a future, for one. Decent jobs, an environment where entrepreneurship is valued and promoted, a stable and reasonable tax system. As can be seen in my monthly Q&A, there are young people fighting to stay and make the best of things, but for how long?
What does the future hold? If nothing is done to reverse this trend, Greece could end up as a country where the indigenous population is a minority.


39 thoughts on “On leaving home”

  1. i must say those stats make grim reading; we seem to have a fixation with immigration here, hence the (slim) majority for Brexit with one of the reasons being a fear of the arrivals. But how much worse to have a net reduction with all that lost talent! Hope you find ways to turn it around.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There in Greece just like here in Portugal 😦
    Let’s just hope some of the best young brains will be stubborn and strong enough to stay and change things , or we as a country just like yourselves will be doomed .
    Turtle Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And just like here in Italy. Statistics reflect only part of the reality though, because apparently here there has been a pretty good measure of job creation in the last year, but it’s neither reflected in the press in denial, nor in the habitually negative mindsets of most people. So much so that the PM could risk being voted out. Again. The last thing the country needs. Stubborn and strong is indeed what’s needed, and the Portuguese have always excelled at those (I’m so proud of my Portuguese roots 🙂 ) and it seems Portugal is hanging in there slightly better than other European countries.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are right ! There are some new jobs being created – mostly by stubborn entrepreneuring young people – but we don’t read much about them in the media , only about the doom and bad news (what purpose does this have I wonder ?) . But then again does it seem we are doing a little better than others because there is a big effort in trying to convey that message to the outside ? or is it the real thing ? We don’t know and with the government switching constantly it is difficult to apply the structural changes we badly need , as every new guy wants to “show work” by undoing what has been done before and come with new ideas as mad and far fetched as they might be 😉
        But I still have hope (in all of us Europeans) we’ve been around for quite awhile , and overcame very bad crisis … this too shall pass 🙂
        Turtle Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re right, stubborn and courageous entrepreneurs do create jobs, whereas structural development suffers every time governments change. And some Europeans seem more resilient in the long run than others …..

        Liked by 2 people

  3. It makes scary reading indeed… But on a more positive side – since “ancient times” the intellectual forces of Greece have spread and changed the world and still do! Agapanthus can’t spread if the seedlings are kept boxed in!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. M.L. I hesitate to “Like” this. It saddens me deeply for this to happen to any country, especially Greece. Greece is such an important country in world history. I would hate to see the traditions, values, “style”, etc. of Greek life lost. Once lost, it is lost forever as a main way of Greek life. Large uncontrollable amounts of immigration is bad enough. But emigration of large amounts of young professional Greeks is terrible.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I speak from the other side of the divide. I live in a country where we are almost all immigrants, and the indigenous population is indeed a minority. Despite the fact that many of us arrived as criminals, indentured servants, poor, desperate and illiterate, this country thrives. You need the non-intellectuals, non-professionals, as much if not more in order to have a viable country. Finance graduates and computer scientists will not grow food, keep your car running, purify your water. A country composed of the enterprising of all nations is not at all a bad thing, but it will not be purely one nationality any longer, it’s true. You are right to say that a climate of opportunity is what will keep your professionals at home, but you should not be surprised if it draws others of other nations too. How much Greece would welcome that I don’t know…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It does already. Our one million immigrants are mostly very well integrated and speak Greek. And of course it is not just the higher educated people who make a country – this is just a description of what is happening at the moment. But it is the more enterprising, gutsy and hardworking that have the courage and resourcefulness to find a job abroad and relocate. And these it is a pity to lose.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This follows Kate Chioni’s comments, all of which do resonate with me! Yes, we in Australia do seem to live in the ‘Lucky Country’ but my birthplace of Estonia in the Baltics oft makes me cry in the same tone as you do for Greece. Australia has received three waves of Estonians: the first came in the late 1920s as young adventurers looking for a better economic climate. I belonged amongst the second, post WWII wave of political refugees, who found the then life Down Under immensely difficult, but on the whole, became very successful in their new ‘home’ country . . . I believe the stats say 94% of us graduating to at least one degree. Now those of us reaching the second half of our lives have been hugely taken aback by the big numbers of highly educated Estonians currently arriving from our ‘home country’: they promptly begin families to qualify to stay here: no doubt with their multiple degrees and dedicated work ethos they will do this country proud, but I look back on the huge ‘brain drain’ similar to that of Greece and ask how you and we [home country] could stop the movement of those we do not want to leave. . .

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It felt strange to ‘like’ this post, as the truth it told was a sad one. Leaving one’s home country is a tough decision to make, but how much tougher to be stuck in a place where there are no prospects. The system worldwide seems to be broken, the 1% holding the power while the rest of us ebb and flow across continents, trying to find our own place. Of course I hope for change, but I fear it will not come without cost.


      1. That’s an interesting way to look at it. There does seem to be a sort of underlying pattern emerging… what worries me is who is managing it all.


  8. This is a real tragedy for Greece and although I knew there was a lot of emigration I had no idea the figures were that high. A fifth of the population almost! Left! It is an impossible situation when the very people the country needs to rebuild and strengthen are the ones that are able to and do leave. My heart goes out to you all and I watch the news with ever increasing despair.


  9. I don’t know that we’re not at war, M.L. With every day that brings more insane news and hate speech and restrictions on people’s freedom in the name of freedom, I become more certain that in another 20 years we’re going to look back and say ‘yep. That was war, all right. Just not as we knew it before then.’

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I am reading an interesting, if dense and depressing, book called “Collapse”, by Jared Diamond. He looks at the collapse of different cultures all over the world. One of the themes that comes across is that humans are restless creatures, and so many will choose to leave rather than stay and figure things out. Next stop Mars, as far as a lot of people believe. Wouldn’t it be great if more people would dig in and see what they can do to make life better right where they are.

    Liked by 2 people

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