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Greeks seeking employment abroad

Joanna Kakissis Oct 28, 2011

Greeks seeking employment abroad

Joanna Kakissis Oct 28, 2011

David Brancaccio: The Greek debt crisis has driven unemployment there to more than 16 percent. Joblessness among young Greeks is more than twice that rate. So it’s no surprise that 70 percent of Greeks under the age of 40 want to move abroad.

Reporter Joanna Kakissis has our story.

Joanna Kakissis: It’s a warm October morning in central Athens. Two men are loading a stove, a kitchen table and a mirror into a big moving van parked outside an apartment building.

The furniture belongs to Elina Stylianidi and her Italian husband, Francesco. They’re both architects in their early 30s. In a few days, they move to Italy. Elina would rather stay close to her family, but she’s been unemployed for seven months.

Elina Stylianidi: I started to understand that no, I can’t find no more jobs. And I started to realize that it was getting really worse and I had to do something about it.

Her husband Francesco said Greece was a different place six years ago when he moved to Athens.

Francesco: I came here in 2005. I started work immediately. I mean, there was a big economical boom. It was really easy to find a job.

Francesco learned to speak Greek fluently. For four years, he and Elina lived well and planned for a long future here. Two years ago, their son, Stefano was born. But that same year, the debt crisis began. Suddenly, work dried up and now they’ve burned through all of their savings.

Yiannis Saplaouras is their closets friend. He’s in a similar position, He’s 33 and a mathematician with a master’s degree. But the best job he’s been able to find is part-time work at a bookstore. He plans to join Elina and Francesco in Italy. It’s hopeless in Greece, he says.

Yiannis Saplaouras: I mean, I know a lot of people searching for a job for months and they find, they find nothing. Nothing. They’re desperate. They don’t know what to do. They, of course, most of them are thinking of going abroad like us.

Francesco and Elina have already lined up jobs in Italy, and they’re helping Yiannis find work. But Francesco says things aren’t much better there.

Francesco: My family will help us a bit in Italy so it’s an easier choice. But I’ve no restriction for the future. We can’t think about Italy, Europe. We have to think our life, our family, our job, everything, and not so much to where we will be.

Francesco and Elina have no idea how long they’ll be in Italy. Elina says she’d like to return to Greece, but she’s read that it will take at least decade for the country to recover from its crippling recession.

Stylianidi: It’s really difficult for me to understand how it’s gonna stop, when it’s gonna stop, how it’s gonna change. So I hope it’s gonna take less than 10 years because I hope to return one day here.

Francesco and Yiannis leave to run errands, and Elina is left in the empty apartment alone. She unlocks the door to greet a neighbor, a tall man in Elvis Costello glasses. We’re leaving, she says. Yes, he replies, I know. These are difficult times.

In Athens, I’m Joanna Kakissis for Marketplace Money.

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