An initiative involving 16 major Greek companies, which was unveiled on Tuesday in Athens, aims to draw back thousands of Greek professionals who left the country during the financial crisis by offering mentors to help the emigrants reconnect with the Greek labor market.
Dubbed Brain Regain – as opposed to the brain drain the country suffered during the crisis – the scheme will provide high-ranking executives to mentor those interested in returning to Greece for a three-month period.
The companies involved include heavyweights such as Aegean Airlines, Hellenic Petroleum, Cosmote, Coca-Cola HBC, Titan, Piraeus Bank, Fourlis, Interamerican and Chipita in an initiative coordinated by the nonprofit association Ellinikes Rizes (Hellenic Roots).
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Theodoros Kotionis, the chief executive officer of Ogilvy Group Greece, who is also involved in the initiative, said that most Greeks who left did so out of necessity, due to the crisis, and would like to return.
“They found work abroad but Greece is their home. Their friends are here, their parents are here. This is where they want to have their families and send their children to school,” he said.
“Only 20 percent don’t want to come back,” Kotionis said. If better opportunities and decent wages were on offer, “the others would like to return.”
Yannis Papachristou, general manager of Coca-Cola HBC, was among those who left. He returned to Greece three years ago. “I needed someone to support me during the initial difficult period so I could get reconnected with what was happening in Greece,” he said. “That will be the role of the mentors in Brain Regain,” he said.
Between 2008 and 2016, an estimated 450,000 Greeks left Greece seeking employment abroad. Of those, 31 percent were aged over 41, 25 percent were between 31 and 35 and 19 percent were aged 26-30. More than half (55 percent) held a postgraduate degree and 8 percent had a doctorate.
A third (32 percent) of the emigrants have been working abroad for three to six years and 10 percent for over a decade.