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Young Greeks see little chance of prosperity

Unemployment is now Greece's biggest problem after severe austerity measures rolled out over the past three months to stabilise its troubled finances.

ATHENS // Eugenia Pouris is desperate to find work. When she lost her position as a secretary in August, she sent out her CV chasing jobs as varied as a baker's assistant and a translator.

This month, Ms Pouris, 43, gave up her apartment in downtown Athens to stay with one of her cousins, sleeping on the couch to save paying rent. If she does not find a job in the next two weeks, she says, she will take more drastic action.

"I have family in the UK and might have to leave my life here and go work with relatives there," says Ms Pouris, who has lived in Athens her entire life. "I will have to choose money over love for Greece."

She is not alone. Unemployment is now Greece's biggest problem after severe austerity measures rolled out over the past three months to stabilise its troubled finances.

When the IMF and euro zone members offered a 110 billion (Dh563.47bn) rescue package to reduce Greece's budget deficit in May, plans to cut jobs, trim pensions and raise taxes were announced by the government.

This month, the Greek prime minister George Papandreou unveiled a 2.6bn plan to promote job creation.

The aim is to provide up to 670,000 jobs to ease soaring unemployment levels, which hovered at 12 per cent in July and are projected to rise to 14.5 per cent in next year and 15 per cent in 2012. About 53,000 people lost their jobs between July last year and July this year, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority, which estimates almost 610,000 people are out of work.

Christianna Kontou, 26, has managed to buck that trend. She moved back to Greece nine months ago after completing a master's degree in New York. Today, she considers herself "one of the lucky few fortunate enough to have a job".

"Younger people share a feeling of compromise and many are looking for an opportunity to leave Greece and move abroad," says Ms Kontou, who works in advertising. "It's depressing to see so many bright people who can't visualise a prosperous life in their home country."

Ms Kontou's age group is affected the most, with 32.6 per cent of people between 15 and 25 looking for work, up from 23.9 per cent last year.The unemployment rate is also rising for women in general - up to 15.7 from 13.8 per cent last year.

While Greeks are pleased with the job creation package, many are taking precautions. Eleni Papatheodorou moved her two children from a Greek school to a French private school this year.

"I'm pushing them to learn English and other languages so that they may be able to study and work abroad in the future," Ms Papatheodorou says.



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