Who are the Greek neomigrants?

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by Christos Demetis (news247.gr)

The new migration waves from Greece and the profile of the Greek neomigrant during the years of the financial crisis, through the research conducted by Greek academics, Lois Labrianidis and Manolis Pratsinakis. The empirical research of the study, which was completed in June, mostly confirms the EUROSTAT data about the size of migration.

The research by Lois Labrianidis and Manolis Pratsinakis is revealing in regard to the profile of the Greek migrant in the years of the crisis.

The Greek neomigrant is around 30 years old, with high education and financial reasons drive them to migration. From almost 190,000 Greek graduates that live abroad, 140,000 of them left after 2010.

The new element is that now the 12% of migrants leave the country in an age higher than 40, something that is unheard of in the Greek experience of migration.

Half of the migrants that left after 2010 were unemployed in Greece in the period preceding their migration.

Unemployment is one of the most important factors that drive people to migration, though it’s not completely determinative.

Most of the migrants don’t leave just to seek employment, but more specifically in order to find better work conditions and better prospects, as well as work stability, something that is not available at the moment in Greece.

The data shows that for many migrants, including several of the graduates, the experience of living abroad is miles away from the ideal picture that is often portrayed about the “life abroad”.

The struggles that neomigrants have to deal with are most intense during the first period after their settlement and mostly revolve around the deterioration of the conditions in the job market in their new countries, but also around problems of adjustment in a different social environment along with the fact that many times they are being subjected to discriminations.

The academic research that is posted on the website enthemata, portrays the framework of modern migration that leads to the huge ‘brain drain’ Greece is experiencing through the latest years.

Migration signs

Lois Labrianidis and Manolis Pratsinakis are reporting:

Until recently, Greek migration had stopped being a subject of academic interest, which mostly focused on the immigration waves; the people coming to Greece. However, during the current financial crisis, migration has started making a comeback on public discussions since it has reached crucial levels to a point that its quantity is comparable to the post-war migration, even if the quality characteristics of these two phenomena are clearly different. This year we conducted a study, which was funded by the Hellenic Observatory of London School of Economics and its goal was to comprehend and explore this phenomenon. Primary research, which was completed in June, mostly confirms the EUROSTAT data about the size of migration, and according to them in the period between 2010 and 2013 almost 224,000 Greeks left the country. Migration seems to continue on a slightly lower rate during 2014 and 2015, while the research finds in regard to the migration expectations indicate that it’s extremely possible that migration will continue through the following years.

As it has already been noted, most of the neomigrants are people of a highest education level. More specifically, 75% are college graduates, from which one third are either postgraduates or medical and engineering graduates. As it is shown in the table below, within the last 50 years we experience a complete reversal of the education profile of Greek migrants. While until 1980, migration concerned mostly inexperienced workers, since 1990 there is a rise in the migration of college graduates, who comprise the vast majority of the population during the 2000’s, something that continues even in the period of crisis. This change is definitely related to the miraculous rise of the educational level in Greece, which is now almost approaching the European average for the younger generations, but also related to the qualifications required in the job market in the European post-industrial economies towards which most migrants are heading. But most importantly, it is caused by the timeless limited demand for high educated staff in Greece and therefore it is related to the constant direction of the Greek economy towards the manufacturing of products and the rendering of services that are of low VAT.

ISCED chart

International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 0-2= including middle school / 3-4=High School or technical education/ 5-6=at least university education

However, despite the fact that the exodus of graduates had started before the crisis, it has evolved into a mass movement only in the last five years. More specifically, from almost 190,000 Greek graduates that live abroad, 140,000 of them left after 2010. At the same time, we have an important rise in the migration of people with lower educational background. And if, for an important part of the graduates, migration is a choice they made in search of better work conditions and prospects, a large part of the people of lower education migrate out of need. It is evident that in the period of crisis we have a very important rise in the migration of people coming from lowest income households. However, we must note that households with really high income are the ones that provide more migrants.

Another characteristic of the neoemigration has to do with the age of the migrants, which is substantially higher than in previous decades. The average age of migrants during the period from 2010 to 2015 is 31 years old while for the period 1990-1999 it is 24 years old. Moreover, even if the vast majority of the migrants are below 35 years old, the 12% of the migrants leave the country in their forties, something unheard of in the Greek experience of migration and indicative of the fact that an important part of the migrants are migrating out of need and not out of choice.

Half of the migrants that left after 2010 were unemployed in Greece in the period preceding their migration. Unemployment is one of the most important factors that drive people to migration, though it’s not completely determinative, since most of the migrants don’t leave just to seek employment, but more specifically in order to find better work conditions and better prospects, as well as work stability. As far as remittances goes, most of the emigrants (68%), don’t send or accept money, something that indicates that, at least in the current period, migration contributes, mostly, to the survival and the socioeconomic progress of the migrants.

We should note, here, that the quantitative data of the research show that many migrants, including several of the graduates, don’t find the experience of living abroad as idealistic as it is often being portrayed. The struggles that neomigrants have to deal with are most intense during the first period after their settlement and mostly revolve around the deterioration of the conditions in the job market in their new countries, but also around problems of adjustment in a different social environment along with the fact that many times they are being subjected to discriminations. Those struggles are easier to overcome for people with strong social networks in their countries and are being less –or not at all- noticed by those who find employment in high salary jobs.

The coming home of the migrants, although relatively low (15%) takes place even during the period of crisis, for many reasons: sometimes due to the difficulties the migrants are facing abroad or because of nostalgia, but sometimes because the work experience or the money that they saved abroad offer them the opportunity to plan their comeback with better terms.

The comeback of these experienced human resources, with work experience and life experience abroad, is something extremely important to the Greek economy, as well as the development of such policies that aim to accommodate the coming home for those who want it. The development of policies that will limit the phenomenon of migration is really important too. At the same time, a realistic approach of the subject which is not nation-centric, has to take into consideration that those decisions depend from personal choices and life strategies from the migrants themselves, and many times they are independent from the development of a national policy.

Therefore, there are many, possible the vast majority, that they won’t return to the country due to the current financial situation. Taking into consideration the great importance of human resources, especially highly educated, for the prospect of development in our country, the development of a policy that reconnects the Greek people living abroad to the Greek economic and social reality is absolutely vital. That policy should facilitate a possible collaboration between those people and Greece, from the country they currently reside into and by making it easier for them to work for some time in Greece. This is the main road, through which most countries plan to make use of the human resources that are within their borders and it is quite possible through measures like those that the Greek graduates living abroad could evolve into a powerful force for the reconstruction of the country.

Lois Labrianidis is an academic and the General Secretary of Strategic and Private Investment in the Ministry of Finance. Manolis Pratsinakis is Marie Curie IF research fellow at the Macedonia University.

 

 

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