A popular saying states that success does not come easy. This saying came to mind when I heard about the Labor Ministry’s pilot program that provides for a wage subsidy with the aim of luring back highly educated Greeks who left the country over the past few years to work abroad.
The program, the ministry says, will initially include 500 Greeks with master’s degrees who have been working abroad for at least one year. As an incentive to return, they will be offered a monthly gross wage of 3,000 euros, 70 percent of which will be paid by the state for one year. This means that, for each Greek who returns, the state will pay the business that hires him/her about 2,000 euros per month for 12 months and the remaining 1,000 will be paid by the employer.
The sad reality, however, is that while the state subsidizes Greek businesses to hire hundreds of Greeks from abroad, thousands of other Greeks with postgraduate and doctoral degrees will leave the country in search of a proper job that will allow them to put some money aside. They will try, in other words, to escape the high taxation and social security contributions paid by everyone in the country.
To get a clearer idea of the state’s predatory relationship with taxpayers, it is worth taking a look at the data presented by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), which show that the country taxes labor more aggressively than most European countries.
It is indicative that of the annual net earnings of an employee paid 20,000 euros, the share paid by the employer to the state in Greece is 44 percent, when in Cyprus it is only 16 percent, in Ireland 20 percent and in Britain and the Netherlands 22 percent. Further up the salary scale, if the annual net earnings of an employee are 40,000 euros, the share paid by the employer reaches 60 percent in Greece, when in Bulgaria it is 20 percent, in Cyprus 28 percent and in Britain 33 percent.
The only way, then, to reduce the brain drain of scientists, and at the same time see highly skilled Greeks return en masse is, first, to reduce social security taxes and general taxation, and secondly to achieve robust growth. Everything else is just a lot of hot air.