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Young Greeks Who Left During Crisis Won't Come Home

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Some 40 percent of the 427,000 young Greeks who fled their homeland during a more than nine-year-long economic crisis have no intention of returning despite pledges by New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, expected to become the next Premier,  to lure them back.

The so-called Brain Drain saw the disenchanted and disenfranchised leave Greece, unable to find work or held down by a clientelist system that rewarded political loyalty over ability and entrepreneurship, stripping Greece of many of its best and brightest and youngest.

A survey by Greece's branch of KPMG, one of the Big Four accounting companies, revealed the finding that four in 10 of those who left aren't even thinking of returning, having given up for good on their homeland even as a slight recovery is underway.

Many fled to places such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the United States and other European Union countries after being unable to find work during a crisis which at its height saw more than half those under 25 years old unemployed.

With the survey titled Brain Drain & Gain, KPMG said it wanted to try to identify under what conditions those who left Greece might consider returning but so many are settled in their new lives, jobs and other countries it was off the table for them.

The survey, whose results were presented at Athens College Friday, recorded the responses of 300 Greeks who live and work abroad, most aged between 25 and 35.

Commenting on the findings, the general manager of KPMG Greece, Peggy Velliotou, emphasized the need for systematic and close cooperation between the government and the country’s universities and businesses if the brain drain is to be reversed.

A third (34 percent) of respondents said they had been students abroad during the crisis years and decided to find a job in the same country, while 19 percent said they had been unemployed and decided to emigrate, said Kathimerini in a report on the findings.

Most work in professional areas such as finance, banking, accounting and research and technology and the most popular destinations are the UK, The Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates, with those opting for the US or Australia usually doing so due to family connections in those countries.

What could make them think of coming back to Greece? Apart from better salaries, most respondents wanted a better working environment and corporate culture, meritocracy and economic reforms to boost entrepreneurship, which lag under political favoritsm. At the annual E-Kyklos conference in Athens, diaNEOsis research analyst Fay Makantasi profiled the average Greek emigrant during the crisis as a young, unmarried university graduate while the survey found some who left might think of returning if there was political and financial shift.