Over the past few years the financial crisis has forced thousands of Greeks, mainly scientists and degree holders, to abandon their country in search of a better life abroad. Many have rushed to compare this new migration wave to that of the 1960’s. However, the modern Greek migrant profile differs from that of 50 years ago. Only in the decade between 1961 and 1973, approximately two million Greeks coming from the mainland of Northern Greece traveled to Germany. To date, informal reports claim 120,000 young scientists and university graduates have fled the country or decided to stay abroad and pursue their careers and life there instead of returning to Greece.
Back in the 60’s the main Greek migrant profile included males aged between 20 and 40 years old (the women followed their husband, brother, father or son after the man had found a job to earn a living), with graduate or little education, farmers or unskilled laborers and healthy so that the employer and host country would not have to pay for hospitalization or treatment costs. The main host country was Germany.
German immigration committees were settled in major Greek cities and in collaboration with physicians chose the new workforce to staff their homelands’ industries and reconstruct the country’s national economy after the political and economic collapse of World War II.
The profile of contemporary Greek migrants has significantly changed. Male migrants from Greece make up 60 or 70% of the total numbers fleeing the country. Most of them are aged between 25 to 40, but elderly people are also included. More than 60% of the migrants have received tertiary education in Greece, hold doctorates and generally come from middle-class families.
The host country is now chosen with regards to where the Greeks may have received some degree of education or completed their studies. Skilled laborers, engineers, computer technicians, doctors and other professionals tend to travel to English-speaking countries, such as the USA, the UK and Central Europe. Migration committees no longer exist, but are rather replaced by various electronic portals that find jobs for candidates from southern European countries ready to move to the more developed countries of northern Europe.
The overall conditions of migration could not be the same as before. There are no songs lamenting the “exile” of modern times, Skype and the Internet have replaced the once extremely pricey phone calls from overseas, most young people have traveled at least once in their lives abroad and have communicated in some manner with people from other countries even through Twitter or Facebook. Most of today’s migrants speak fluently one, two or even more foreign languages depending on their profession.
As Professor Lois Labrianidis explained during a conference titled, Migration Then and Migration Now, organized by the Philosophy Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the main reasons behind the Greek exodus include the artificial oversupply of graduates in Greece (based on research data presented in the conference, Greek graduates are not much higher in percentage than in other European countries, the low demand for degree holders, reduced wages, the ambiguous attitude of the Greek society towards knowledge and last but not least, the inefficient development models applied within the country.
(original story in Greek by tromaktiko)