Another Greek Exodus?

Posted September 17th, 2010 by Thanassis Cambanis and filed in Writing

While I was traveling I missed this fine story by Niki Kistantonis about the newest generation of Greeks flooding abroad because of the lack of opportunity. For much of its modern history, one of Greece’s most successful exports has been its young. It’s a common story in underdeveloped nations — the initiative-takers, the smart and resourceful self-select for emigration, and take their work ethics and brains abroad. In the early twentieth century and again in the 1950s and 1960s hundreds of thousands of Greeks fled to the diaspora.

Those  who remain, especially the ambitious and the well educated, find themselves choked from opportunity. She quotes a recent poll:

According to a survey published last month, seven out of 10 Greek college graduates want to work abroad. Four in 10 are actively seeking jobs abroad or are pursuing further education to gain a foothold in the foreign job market. The survey, conducted by the polling firm Kapa Research for To Vima, a center-left newspaper, questioned 5,442 Greeks ages 22 to 35.

The economic crisis in Greece has taken a huge toll on the country, and heightened generational anxiety. At the same time, economic opportunities are dampened everywhere right now, not just in Greece.

I just spent 10 days in Lebanon, long famed as the most debt-ridden nation in the world. It was striking during this visit to regularly have people ask me whether Greece has surpassed Lebanon in debt. Even one Greek banker I met had to stop and calculate in his head before concluding that Greece was barely ahead of Lebanon in debt-to-GDP ratio.

Greece and Lebanon have painful similarities: impressive human capital, speedy journeys from developing to developed economies, endemic graft, ossified political structures, and diasporas whose economic achievements dwarf those of the metropolis.

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