Nearly half a million Greeks have left the country in search of better opportunities abroad since 2008 due to the financial crisis, with educated professionals among those leading the exodus, a Bank of Greece report has shown.
According to the report, which Kathimerini made public on Saturday, more than 427,000 Greeks have emigrated since 2008. The exodus started gradually in 2008, a year before Greece’s debt crisis erupted, exceeding 100,000 in 2013 and growing in 2014 and 2015. As noted in the report, Greek emigres’ main motive is to find work as opportunities in crisis-hit Greece are few and far between, with an unemployment rate that remains above 25 percent.
It is not the first time that Greeks have abandoned their country en masse. Over the past century, Greece has seen two other major exoduses, one between 1903 and 1917 and the other between 1960 and 1972. The difference between the first two and the current one is that in the 20th century, it was mostly unskilled workers and farmers that left while now educated professionals and young graduates are leading the exodus. There are similarities, however, as pointed out in the report.
“It is no coincidence that both phases took place following an intense period of recessionary upheaval that widened the chasm between our country and developed nations and fueled the mass departure of people, chiefly young people, who were seeking new opportunities and prospects for progress,” Sofia Lazaretou, a BoG economist and the author of the report, told Kathimerini.
In the first exodus, between 1903 and 1917, Greeks traveled chiefly to the USA, Australia, Canada, Brazil and southeastern Africa, according to the report, which noted that seven in 10 were aged between 15 and 44 and fewer than two in 10 were women.
In the second wave, in 1960-72, seven out of 10 were young people aged 20-34, with five in 10 declaring themselves as manual workers. Six out of 10 traveled to Germany or Belgium to work in factories.
The current exodus is being led by young professionals seeking their fortune in Germany, the UK and the United Arab Emirates, the report said.
Greece ranks fourth among the 28 European Union member-states in terms of mass emigration in proportion to its work force, after Cyprus, Ireland and Lithuania. It ranks third, after Cyprus and Spain, in terms of the proportion of young people leaving the country.