Like a tornado, the economic crisis has scattered thousands of Greeks to the four corners of the earth, though this is by no means a new phenomenon for a country where wages have been invariably low and the job market sluggish, especially for scientists and other specialized workers. But with the situation in Greece as it is, there are also those who are already studying and working abroad, and who are putting off past plans to return, or the repatriated children of migrants who are using their dual citizenship status to return to their adopted homelands. Either way, the basic characteristic of the current flight trend is that the wave began with a majority of emigres that were highly educated and qualified, then spread to families and then to unspecialized laborers. The beginning of the crisis in 2009 saw hundreds of young Greek doctors leaving for Sweden, Germany and the UK, where they sought specialized training.
The next group to head west was mechanical engineers, who saw the heyday of 2004 come crashing down in 2010 as the construction market began to collapse and infrastructure works froze. Many find openings, such as in Germany where the manpower organization has been advertising for doctors and mechanical engineers for months.
The same is not necessarily true for young people who do not have a university degree as they often find it difficult to be absorbed into the unspecialized labor market, especially in Germany, where, according to that country’s statistical service, the number of Greeks looking for work rose 90 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year with 23,800 new emigres. As far as the rest of Europe is concerned, 55,332 Greek degree holders have submitted their resumes to the Europass scheme so far in 2012.
Cyprus is also proving an attractive destination for Greek job seekers, both because there is no language barrier and because hundreds of Greek companies have moved their headquarters there, as well as to other countries in the Balkans that offer a more favorable investment environment.
As the economic crisis takes its toll on employment throughout the European Union, however, Greek potential emigres are looking further afield. Australia is at the top of the list, especially given the large Greek population in the state of Victoria, where the Greek community has organized a scheme to assist in the transition. Engineers are more attracted to construction-boom countries like Qatar in the Gulf, as well as in developing nations in Africa, where expertise in the construction of large public works, such as railways, roads and stadiums, is a passport into the halls of the big multinational corporations that are active there.