Following a decade-long recession, Greece is finally seeing its detrimental brain drain reversed into a “brain gain,” a new trend triggered by the pandemic crisis and spearheaded by the substantial investments of top international companies in the local economy that are in the offing.
The domestic tech and startup world is undoubtedly among the most rapidly evolving; an encouraging fact testified to by the recent launch of the National Startup Registry, called “Elevate Greece.”
Along with it, though, additional sectors of the Greek economy are also being enhanced by the international know-how of both recent expats and foreign nationals who are now willing to stay in the country for longer, market insiders tell Greek Reporter.
Brain gain builds momentum
Tech investor George Tziralis, a partner at Marathon Venture Capital, states this new reality on a LinkedIn post that sparked a vivid conversation. Speaking to Greek Reporter, he recalls that his team first heard about Greeks moving back as soon as the lockdowns started across Europe and the US.
“Greece served as a safe harbor, also the summer was close… We kept hearing about more and more Greeks in tech peers spending more time than just a short holiday in Greece. I have no research data on it but, in our experience, when you hear the same thing that many times from many different sources (and I guess most of us have similar stories to tell), then total figures are considerable,” he explains.
As a startup veteran who launched the first venture capital fund for technology startups in Greece at the peak of the recession in 2009, Tziralis advocates that the country has everything it takes for building up brain gain – tech workers and digital nomads to start spending more time in the country – beyond, say, a week of holidays.
“The distinction between nomads vs. residents is becoming more vague; most people keep doing what they used to, regardless of their location. Nothing is more definitive than the temporary. Unfortunately there is no clear end for the pandemic in sight as we speak, and current solutions are becoming the default ones upon further notice.
“If not anything else, the weather is much better than the most part of the western world, plus there is now a fast-growing startup community of young, ambitious and cosmopolitan Greeks spread around the country, for our tech peers to feel at home,” he notes.
“Tech infrastructure and taxation frameworks are not that bad either when you take a closer look – plus the government has proven to be listening to trends and initiatives as soon as they reach a critical mass, removing barriers to entry in recent years,” Tziralis concludes.
Anna Ve, a recruitment consultant expert who has a masters degree in Occupational Psychology and more than a decade of work experience in the Greek market, observed the brain gain in Greece. She sees a substantial increase of professionals seeking to return to Greece just after the Covid-19 pandemic affected many European countries and peaked during the summer.
“I noticed an increase in candidate applications from abroad but, mainly, I was approached directly on LinkedIn by sales, marketing and IT professionals from various industries. Those were male and female Greek professionals, aged between 25-45, and the majority was coming from the UK, The Netherlands and Germany”, she tells Greek Reporter.
Ve agrees that the trend was certainly triggered by the pandemic, due to the mishandling of the health crisis in many European countries. The HR professional points out that one should expect this brain gain to continue in the following months, maybe years, and indicates that, except from Greek expats, it could also attract other nationals.
“I have recorded many foreigners choosing to work remotely from Greece. The humane way in which the Greek government handled the situation has shifted the mindset of many people towards changing their priorities in work and life.
“Also the fact that the Ministry of Development & Investments has announced that many organizations very soon will be investing in Greece will urge more professionals to return. It is no coincidence of course that organizations such as Microsoft have already announced their decision to invest in Greece the following years”, she corroborates.
Despite accepting as a fact that it is very difficult for organizations in Greece to compete with the compensation packages Greeks working abroad have been used to, Ve believes that this is something that the latter are willing to compromise.
“Let’s not forget that the cost of living in Greece is a lot lower than in the majority of European countries. Also, most of the organizations I cooperate with are intentionally seeking for professionals with international experience so they can transfer their innovative ideas and know-how”, she affirms.