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It's Plain: Greece Not Ready for Brain Drain Regain

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh.)

ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after taking power in July, 2019 one of his priorities was to lure back many of the some 450,000 people, the best and brightest among them, who fled Greece during a long economic crisis.

But his New Democracy government isn't in a position to do that, said a survey by the Hellenic Authority for Quality in Higher Education’s (ADIP) annual report for 2019.

The findings were that the government can neither develop nor attract talented professionals who left in hunt of jobs and a better life elsewhere, giving up on Greece and a succession of governments rewarding party loyalists instead.

The report said the country's higher education system, held down by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA – now called the Progressive Alliance – which didn't want excellence, is still rife with problems.

Citing the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) for 2020, the report said that Greece ranks only 81st internationally in attracting talented people, 30th in terms of retaining them and 60th in talent development out of a total of 132 countries, said Kathimerini.

That's despite the country's reputation for young entrepreneurs, scientists and professionals recruited by other countries but who haven been unappreciated for the skills and talents at home.

Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey showed discouraging resutls as well with Greece far behind the European average in terms of creating high-quality jobs with good financial gains and prospects.

The country, the paper said, ranks among the worst-performing countrie by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the employment of higher education graduates aged 25-64, at 74 percent.

In December, 2019, the Labor Social Affairs Ministry announced a plan to get them to return,,offering subsidies to otherwise meager monthly salaries that were cut repeatedly during the crisis that began in 2010.

That would have used European Union funds to boost salaries for professionals and other skilled people but there's no report since on whether it was implemented or working.

The initiative, called Rebrain Greece: The Technological Transformation of the Labor Market, included a target of an initial recruitment of 500 expatriate Greeks with recognized international scientific and professional experience and post-grad academic credentials - and aged between 28 and 40, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.

Eligible employers were companies active in the Greek market who could take use of an element that offers a minimum 3,000-euro ($3538.65) per month salary, almost three times what some state teachers and doctors get.

Entrepreneurs especially have been held down by the country’s notorious clientelist state that rewards those with loyalty to ruling parties and not on merit as Mitsotakis said would be the hallmark of his government even as was accused of making political appointments.

In March 2019, the consequences of losing talented people was noted in a report from the company Oxford Analytica that found in 2016, about 20,000 people aged between 25 and 29 left Greece. 

About 14,000 others aged between 20 and 24 also left the country in the same year, data from analytics company Oxford Analytica showed. These figures are roughly twice as much as they were prior to 2010.

“Some kids are educated, and they don’t find jobs, so they are going to (the rest of) Europe, which is a loss for Greece. But we hope they come back again in 20 years,” a 57-year-old man identified only as Nikolas told CNBC then.

In June 2019, when SYRIZA was still in power, a study from ICAP People Solutions about the brain drain phenomenon found that critics said Greece’s leaders hadn’t promoted people with skills, favoring their friends and others who could benefit them.

 The crisis was a key factor in their leaving but not as much as the inability to get ahead or deal with the endless corruption which requires payoffs and bribery and other wrongdoing as a means to prosper.

Respondents who said they emigrated for professional reasons, but then returned to Greece, cited “family reasons,” such as obligations with parents or children.

The profile of younger professionals who left Greece for jobs abroad showed that 92 percent were degree holders, and 60 percent said they emigrated after having first worked in Greece.

The majority selected the United Kingdom, followed by other European Union countries to continue their career although some have picked the United States as well as Australia, which has a sizeable Greek heritage population. 

Most of those who departed left for jobs in the Information Technology sector, construction, energy and financial insurance, followed by education and healthcare the study showed.

Roughly half said they worked abroad for more than three years, and one-third said they do not intend to return to Greece on a permanent basis.

The electronic survey of 1,068 Greeks living in 61 countries showed that 53 percent have Masters degrees, while 20 percent have completed undergraduate studies. Another 8 percent have doctorates.

Around half were under 35, while 23 percent wee supervisors, 10 percent senior executives and another 10 percent managers.

The overwhelming majority (88 percent) of those questioned had been living abroad for more than a year, with 59 percent having prior work experience in Greece.