Graduates knock on doors in search of work

For years, finding a job in Greece has depended more on who you know rather than what you know. Yet until just a few decades ago, a solid education was a passport to employment. Now that possession of a degree no longer guarantees a job, universities are like nurseries, adding huge numbers of people to the ranks of the jobless. «How much longer do I and thousands more of my age have to live like parasites without doing anything worthwhile?» wonders Haralambos Hadzivassileiou, who graduated in mining engineering from the National Technical University and has been looking for work in his field for about a year. «What happened at job interviews was laughable. They almost always asked two things – about my previous experience and whether I knew anyone who had referred me to the company. Even if there was a position vacant, you still had to have a inside connection.» Hadzivassileiou has sent his CV to 68 companies and is still waiting for a reply. Matters are much the same in other professions. Physics: Graduates in this field, for example, are bogged down professionally as for the past 15 years only a few have been absorbed into the state education system; only 5 percent of them have permanent appointments, while the rest have been taken on as supply teachers. «The remaining 70 percent are adrift (30 percent are completely unemployed and the rest work in other fields or are underemployed). Only 5-10 percent have found work giving private tuition, an area that has shrunk in recent years along with family budgets, Greek Physicists’ Union Vice President Panayiotis Filntisis told Kathimerini. Yet 25 years ago, 95 percent of physics graduates were able to find work teaching. The reasons have largely to do with tertiary education. «Universities do not channel students into the labor market. A physics graduate has no teacher training and is far behind in technology as the curriculum has not been updated. And there are many physics departments, which has led to an oversupply of physicists. We propose that some of them close for two to three years,» said Filntisis. Language and literature: Graduates of Greek and foreign language and literature departments are in crisis, as most of them work in other fields for years. «Nowadays there are seven to eight years between graduation and appointment, whereas in my day I didn’t have to wait more than two months to get a job,» Eleni Tsakalou, a teacher for 34 years and a founding member of the Panhellenic Language Teachers’ Union. «But I see my daughter, who has graduated in French and speaks five languages but who has to work in a travel agency. She is disillusioned and about to give up her dream of working in a school. I know French teachers who work by the hour at three different schools for very few hours and are essentially acting as secretaries without doing any educational work. It is totally demeaning for teachers.» Sociologists: Unemployment (20 percent), underemployment or working in unrelated fields are the lot of some 2,000 sociology graduates. The few positions in schools that are advertised are quickly filled. «The consolation is that along with a growing number of graduates, new positions have been created in other sectors,» Greek Sociology Association President Nikos Fakiolas told Kathimerini. «But it might be good for sociology graduates to specialize in other fields such as health, labor, tourism, drug dependency, social exclusion and local government.» Archaeologists: Young archaeologists become discouraged in the attempt to exercise the profession they have chosen to study for. Many of them decide to transfer to other disciplines so as not to waste time being unemployed while waiting for a chance to work on an excavation. Vassia Laspiti, 25, graduated two years ago from the Department of History and Archaeology at Athens University. She applies for every job advertised. «I decided to go in for the ASEP staff selection council exam and now I’m waiting for the results. I’ve worked on digs, but as a volunteer. At least half my friends from university have given up trying to be archaeologists. Only a few lucky ones found the jobs they wanted and a decent salary,» said Laspiti, who is determined to keep up the effort.