An oft-heard question that gives a snapshot of the Greek crisis is “Do you have any idea how many people are lining up for this job?” This is a common response to workers of the so-called 500-euro generation who dare express any complaints to their employers.
Three educated young people recently spoke to Kathimerini about the dismal conditions they have to put up with in the country’s labor market, and their hopes for the future.
“I put all my time and energy into a job with no prospects,” says Eleni, a 26-year-old history and archaeology graduate.
Eleni wakes up before 5 a.m. every day and then rides a bus to the city center so she can start work at a coffee shop at 6 a.m.
“My aim was to work there for one year max, but I am long past that deadline,” she says, adding that working conditions at the coffee shop are relatively decent.
“All employees are registered. Also, we are paid overtime for extra hours and Sunday shifts as the law requires,” Eleni says. Her monthly salary is 480 euros. With the two Sunday shifts it goes up to 518 euros.
Where does that go? “I pay my phone bill, my English lesson fees and my gym membership,” she says.
Eleni has had to give up her dream of moving to her own apartment, or sharing a space with a flatmate. “I was in a dilemma. If I was renting a place with someone else, I would be left with just enough money to get by. I would not be able to save anything.”
Saving money means she has had to make many sacrifices. “I don’t go out for coffee as much as I used to. I also avoid spending money on doctors and medicine. When I get sick, I try to deal with it myself,” she says.
Eleni does not stop thinking of a plan B. “I am looking for a different job, a more creative job,” she says, adding that her stress is not only financial.
“If I worked at a private tuition center I would probably get less money, but I would probably feel more creative,” she says. “On the other hand, if I worked as a waitress in a foreign country, I would probably get better money and enjoy a better quality of life.”
Antonia, also 26, is lucky to have found a job in her area of expertise – as a nursery teacher. But her wages leave a lot to be desired.
“I work at a private nursery. I am working with another two graduates from a vocational training school. We are looking after children aged up to 3 and a half,” she says.
“Because of the four-hour working day and my young age, my monthly salary is 250 euros,” she says.
Antonia says her contract is subject to a one-month suspension in the summer. “Last year I was fired ahead of the summer break only to be rehired in September. This time, they have asked me to quit [for the summer break], but I am not going to. I also have consulted a lawyer about this.”
Antonia shares a flat with her older sister, who shoulders most of the household costs. She has kept her expenses to a minimum, “except going out for a weekly coffee with my pals.”
But she refuses to quit. She tried and failed to get on a course at the University of Thessaly’s Department of Special Education in Volos, central Greece. Meanwhile, she hopes that a position will open up at a public school for her.
“The last hirings were made in 2009,” says Giorgos, 27, who plans to start his postgraduate degree in February while working at a supermarket.
“I have been working here since I was 18. I was working and studying at the same time,” he says. The political scientist did a good job, completing his graduate and postgraduate degree in time.
“At first, I worked two days a week, then four hours a day six days a week. Over the past few years I have been working six hours a day, six days a week and my salary is 600 euros,” he says.
“The worst thing is the working hours since I start work at 5.30 a.m.,” he reveals. “I try to organize my time so as to make time to study.”