Young Greeks seek work in line with their skills

It’s 9.30 p.m. at a quiet cafe near the Hilton Hotel. A group of old school friends are meeting after work. «Some of us studied here, others abroad. We met up again after our studies, as we took our first steps in the job market,» Thanassis, 28, told Kathimerini. «I noticed that when we met for coffee we were all talking about the same things: whether we’d got social insurance, if our employers were declaring our work, what contracts we had and what hours we worked. None of us has found work commensurate with our knowledge and qualifications, to say nothing of salaries. So we decided to transfer that discussion to the Internet.» And so it happened. Ten months ago they created to give a voice to Greeks aged 25-35 in the same position. The blog receives between 600 and 3,000 hits a day, and is the 30th most visited site among a total of 25,000 Greek blogs. «None of us expected such a response. We hit a chord,» said Dimitris, 25. Every posting on the blog attracts 70-80 comments, and the e-lawyer column that answers questions from readers is a great success. «Success isn’t the right word in this case,» commented Evangelia, 27, one of the trainee lawyers who does the research and answers the e-mails. «Most ask about costing work, insurance, compensation, illegal work. And there are a lot that simply want psychological support. ‘Tell me what to do,’ they write. And don’t forget we’re talking about people aged 30-35.» As Thanassis explained, many young people of his generation are disappointed. «It’s not the money. It’s that you’re productive but have to demand even the very basics.» The problem, complained Panayiotis, 27, is that there are no positions that reward knowledge: «There’s no incentive, no opportunity to stand out. Elite positions are already filled by the post-dictatorship generation, who are numerous and have party connections. They’re are our eternal parents and we are their eternal children. They want to offer us a safety net, but they don’t want to relinquish their privileges. The state, the parties and the family that once helped us make progress now cultivate inertia.» Nowadays, any young person who doesn’t dream of a public service job has two options: to start their own business or work for someone else. «No young person with a business plan can put it into practice,» said Panayiotis. «Not only does it take at least 12 months to get through all the bureaucracy, but you have to make the state your partner, along with the tax office and inspectors. If you don’t you’ll close down within a year.» As for private employment, the group described it as a «labor jungle.» With social insurance in Greece in the realm of 40 percent, many employers and employees prefer informal work arrangements, and that is how a large proportion of young people work. Bitter truth The bitter truth, say the g700 blog group, is that if you haven’t graduated from a top international university, you’re not going to get paid more than 800 euros clear a month. They cite endless examples: a food technician with a doctorate in a big factory earning 830 euros; an economist with two degrees getting 800 euros at a multinational company; a marketing chief at a business advisory firm on a starting salary of 600 euros. The g700 group say the high number of freelance professionals in Greece is inaccurate. «It’s just that employers don’t put you in the IKA social insurance fund but make you to join the OAEE freelance professional fund. You miss out on bonuses, you get paid less; in short you’re at the mercy of the boss,» said Sotiris, 28. So what do the 700-euro generation want? «We don’t want higher salaries, nor do we want a nanny state,» said Thanassis. «We just want opportunities. We want an inspiring work environment that gives us the chance to develop.»