Greek ‘brain drain’ risks economic recovery
ATHENS // With Greece’s creditors expected to arrive in Athens this week to assess its progress on economic reforms, another looming crisis could seriously harm Greece long-term.
The Greek “brain drain” is leaving the country short of highly skilled technical experts.
An estimated 200,000 qualified professionals have left Greece in the past two years to try their chances elsewhere, a 300 per cent increase versus pre-crisis times, according to a study by Endeavor, a non-profit organisation that supports entrepreneurial efforts. That comes on top of the 350,000 Greeks who emigrated between 2010, when the crisis began, and 2013, according to official data. Almost 270,000 of them were young people aged between 20 and 39.
With the government in Athens attempting to reform the pensions system, largely through a steep increase in social security contributions, the loss of talent is only likely to increase.
“We are fighting for our very survival,” said Georgios Stassinos, the head of the country’s biggest engineers’ union. If proposed the reforms are adopted, he said, “the country will be left without engineers, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and economists”.
Negotiations between the heads of the EU/IMF mission reviewing progress on Greece’s pensions overhaul, fiscal targets and the handling of bad loans, took a break last month and as the creditors return there is no guarantee their assessment will be favourable. That could put at risk the next tranche of the country’s €86 billion (Dh345.8bn) bailout.
Nick Malkoutzis, the editor of the economic analysis website MacroPolis, told The National: “If you look at the statistics, Greece tends to punch above its weight in terms of young people’s qualifications.
“To have this potential and to let it slip through your hands is not only a crying shame but could wreak lasting damage in economic and social terms.”
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Updated: March 7, 2016 04:00 AM