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.
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.