Greece facing ‘brain drain’ as 427,000 economic migrants, many high-skilled, leave country in light of debt crisis
By Helena Smith
Greece is experiencing its biggest brain drain in modern history with close to half a million of its most able and talented professionals having left since the start of its economic crisis, the country’s central bank has revealed.
The Bank of Greece said 427,000 had migrated since 2008, a year before the nation’s debt drama erupted. The exodus of workers, many of them high-skilled, makes the prospect of economic recovery even more opaque.
“Migration and poverty are undoubtedly the two most painful consequences experienced by a society in protracted crisis conditions,” the report’s author Sophia Lazaratou told Kathimerini newspaper.
“The current exodus is being led by young professionals seeking their fortunes in Germany, the UK and the United Arab Emirates,” according to the report. Over 100,000 have moved abroad since 2013.
Unemployment – along with a Byzantine bureaucracy and endemic corruption – has spurred the flow. In the seven years since the debt crisis exploded, joblessness has soared from around 4% to 25% . More than 50% of Greeks aged between 25 and 39 are out of work – the highest proportion of any EU member state.
“What this shows is that there has been a deep and long-term seepage of the most able and the most talented that will have major implications for the future growth potential of Greece,” said Prof Kevin Featherstone, who heads the London School of Economics Hellenic Observatory.
A broken sign, ‘Accountant’s Office’, lies on the floor of a deserted marble factory that closed in 2006. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/REUTERS
Asked if Brexit would affect the exodus, he said: “It may well divert them. In the medium term, there will be less job opportunities in the NHS, education sector and financial services, there will be less of a pull factor.”
Reintegrating people in long-term unemployment has become a major concern in a country where the depth and length of the recession is akin to the depression suffered by eastern European states in the early 1990s.
The unprecedented outflow has been particularly hard on Greece’s health sector with ever more doctors also joining the exodus. Ironically the vast majority, educated and trained at great expense, have headed for Germany where some 25,000 Greek doctors are now believed to work.
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