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Greeks Giving Up on Cities, Heading Back to Villages

Village life is looking better and better to more Greeks these troubled days

ATHENS – Worn out by a drawn-out economic crisis that has cut deeply into the standard of living of many working class Greeks, more than 1.5 million of the country’s population of 11 million people are thinking about leaving the cities and returning to the villages of their ancestors in search of a simpler, cheaper life. That was the finding of a survey commissioned by the Agricultural Development Ministry, indicating the depth of despair of many people who have seen their pay cut 30 percent or more, many of their taxes doubled, pensions slashed and the fear of 150,000 who are scheduled to be fired over the next three years.
It’s the ultimate irony: Greeks who moved away from the villages of their grandparents and parents to Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, Volos and other cities looking for a better life and higher income now find themselves having to return because their buying power has evaporated. Some 21 percent of Greeks are officially unemployed although another 500,000 are without any income at all as their benefits have expired. Those who are still receiving unemployment have had it cut to $506 per month – before taxes – and even people making as little as $6,700 a year are being taxed, while tax evaders costing the country more than $72 billion remain unpunished as the government goes after the working class to make up for lost revenues.
The survey, conducted by polling firm Kapa Research on a sample of 1,286 respondents in Athens and Thessaloniki, found that seven out of 10 (68.2 percent) have considered leaving the city for a new life in the provinces while one in five (19.3 percent) have already made the initial moves to relocate. Three-quarters of those who said they are likely to move to the provinces are under 44. Around half said they were interested in going into farming, with most were drawn to cultivating olives or producing olive oil and another 18.3 percent would like to work in the tourism or culture sectors. Cultivation was not the only pastime of interest to those eyeing the agricultural and food sectors. Some said they would like to work in the processing or distribution of agricultural goods.
Two-thirds of those who said they would like a new life in the provinces have been to college, with a quarter of them boasting a postgraduate degree. Earlier surveys have shown many of Greece’s educated young are making plans to leave their country in search of jobs with higher incomes and a better life. In this new survey, some 70 percent of people said they would accept a lower salary for a better quality of life they believed they could find away from the city, growing their own crops, living off the land and trying to find some peace. The findings reiterated earlier polls that showed Greeks, either by choice or not, will be going back to a more rural, agricultural life, fearing they could not afford to live in the cities anymore.
Presenting the findings, Minister Costas Skandalidis spoke of a “deep shift in Greek society and lifestyles, the extent of which we have yet to grasp.” He noted that educated young Greeks were increasingly rejecting the ideal of an affluent life in the northern suburbs of Athens or climbing the career ladder and were focusing on improving the quality of their lives and personal relationships as well as enjoying a lower cost of living. He said that about $80 million in state funding has been set aside for a program offering plots of land at cheap rates to would-be farmers. An initiative launched by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, which is renting out small parcels of farmland for a nominal fee to cash-strapped Greeks who want to grow their own fruit and vegetables, has already received some 4,000 applications, SKAI TV reported earlier this month.
(Source: Kathimerini)


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