Youth as Collateral Damage

The Politics of Austerity – In the wake of a deteriorating public balance sheet, the Greek government accepted the politics of austerity demanded by an international troika (EU, European Central Bank, and IMF) as a way of gaining access to loans. The conditions for these loans are codified through a series of evolving Memoranda which have imposed increasingly strict and detailed directives for the social and economic policies of Greek governments. These externally imposed troika conditions are the politics of austerity meant to save the country. The Greek youth have suffered the most from these destructive policies.

At her recent visit to Athens, Angela Merkel made special reference to the Greek youth, which “has gone through difficult times and should be prepared for yet more difficulties”, while in the meantime the best option for young Greeks would be “to advance their skills by working abroad where more opportunities are present”.  In fact, young Greeks are experiencing something much worse than just “difficult times”, as more than 60% of those aged between 18 and 25 are unemployed,[1] whereas approximately 2/3 of them have been out of the job market for more than one year, having seen their skills and talents continuously erode.  

Greece has a highly qualified workforce, as the 34.6% of those aged between 30 and 34 have completed tertiary education.[2]  While this skilled and specialised workforce could be used in key positions and contribute to the revival of the Greek economy, young scientists are facing the prospect of unemployment or extremely low wages and have no option other than to migrate in search of a better future.  From 2009 to 2011 migration from Greece to other EU countries rose by 170%.[3]  The supply of Greek scientists has matched the increasing demand for a specialised workforce in a number of European countries.  It is estimated that around 25,000 Greeks, many of them doctors and engineers, migrated to Germany during the last three years.[4]       

The social and economic consequences of this new wave of migration are multifaceted and long term.  First, the brain-drain deprives Greece of the opportunity to develop sectors of the national economy where specialisation is needed.  At the same time, the already degraded public health system further suffers from the lack of doctors and trained medical technicians.  At the demographic level the negative impact is equally acute;  the perennial problem of an ageing population is now exacerbated by the massive migration of the youngest and most dynamic part of the Greek society.

Greek youth are poorly represented by the power structure of the present parliament.  It has been estimated[5] that in the last election of May-June 2012 the parties of Nea Dimokratia and PASOK that form the current government received only the 15% of voters between 18 and 24 years old, and the 22% of those aged between 25 and 34.  In contrast, parties that have opposed austerity received the great majority of youth votes, with the main opposition party, SYRIZA, gaining approximately the 35% of voters between 18 and 34 years old.      

 

[1] Yearly review of the Institute for Employment of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) available at http://www.inegsee.gr/ereynes-meletes/ekthesh/869-etisia-ekthesi-2013–i-elliniki-oikonomia-kai-i-apascholisi.html ekthesi gesee

[2] See http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/3-11042014-AP/EN/3-11042014-AP-EN.PDF

[3] Nikos Ksidakis article published at Kathimerini on 24.01.14 available at http://www.kathimerini.gr/553597/opinion/epikairothta/politikh/afhste-toys-ellhnes-na-doyleyoyn

[4] ibid

[5] Research by Public Issue available at  http://www.publicissue.gr/2043/koinwniko_profil_6_2012/

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