Thursday, May 22, 2008

Greece's lost generation

Generation 700 - Γενια 700

To look at the cafes full of young people sipping their four euro coffees it would be easy to imagine that young Greeks have little to trouble them apart from the normal cares of exams, relationships and entertainment choices, however, the reality of the situation is that the current generation of young people in Greece is in crisis, fearful of the future apprehensive about how they are going to make a living in a country which has an official youth unemployment rate of nearly 22%, double the European average.

Forget Generation X or Y, this is Generation 700, the name they have given themselves since even those who manage to find employment rarely get more than 700 euros a month. In cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki where rents start at 300 euros and prices of basic goods and services have risen dramatically, young Greek have little choice but to live with their parents till they get married.

Despite growth rates of 4% the Greek workers have seen their spending power decline rapidly since the introduction of the Euro in 2001. Stagnant wages combined with price rises of 100 to 200% have hit those on low incomes in particular. Nor have years of strong economic growth done much to bring down the country's unemployment rate, the second highest in the EU. In contrast a recent survey carried out by the Greek Consumer Protection centre (KEPKA) found that Greece has the highest cost of living in Europe with everyday products costing 66% more than those in Germany and Holland.

Andreas, 22, counts himself lucky. He has a job as a chef which pays 750 Euros a month for a job in which he has to work up to 10 hours a day. Even rarer, he has an employer that pays the statutory national insurance benefits. However,like so many others in Thessaloniki he worked, uninsured, for 500 Euros a month in the recent past. Similarly, Many his age he wonder what the future will bring and are pessimistic about their chances of ever having a pension. They sees little cause for hope in the present situation, resigned to the fact that whatever party gets into power little will change for young Greeks.

Even those with university degrees, masters and knowledge of two or more foreign languages struggle to find work in a job market where stable, western style career jobs are the exception, rather than the rule. Indeed the country has the highest graduate unemployment rate of all 27 EU countries Traditionally, such people would often apply for coveted placed in the civil service which pay better and have greater job security, however, cuts in public services along with the use of short time contracts by both the present conservative, New Democracy administration and the previous left-wing PASOK government have seen such opportunities curtailed.
Those public sector jobs which do exist are usually only obtainable for those who have, "meson", suitable family or party connections.

Despite government indifference to the problem on the policy level, Generation 700 is still a sensitive issue politically for the present New Democracy administration as journalist, Stelios Kouloglou found to his cost recently. Kouloglou who hosts Reportage Xoris Synora (Reporting Without Borders) - the Greek equivalent of the BBC's Panorama or CBS's 60 Minutes was promptly fired after 13 years working for the Greek state broadcast company and the programme axed from the state run NET channel after his documentary on Generation 700 was aired.

To hear more about Generation 700 in their own words click here to see their blog,

Greece's lost generation

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surfmadpig said...

700 euros would have been fine if it wasn't for all the ridiculous price rises.

I live downtown and unfortunately have to shop at Masoutis, which is almost of a monopoly in the centre. I've noticed that most prices there are HIGHER THAN IN THE PERIPTERO! The cheapest loaf of bread you can find at Masoutis costs around 80 cents... while yesterday I found a pack of three bell peppers at Masoutis costing... 5 euros! Not bio or anything similar either...
There are very few supermarket chains in Greece, and they support each other in overpricing. and the government supports their practices.

They claim the rises come from oil price rises, but how then do they influence a tomato that was grown 50km from Thessaloniki, for instance? And how come so many pieces of imported clothing is so cheap then? They're seriously underestimating our intelligence.

But it's not entirely "their" fault. The neoellinas mentality has a lot to do with enforcing such practices. There are so many young people who are almost broke, yet spend the few money they have on ridiculolusly priced designer outfits, and support cafes (not to mention bars and clubs) where a frappe costs 5 euros... If they stopped tolerating such business models, these businesses would eventually shut down.

I read this article the other day, and I think you'll find it interesting too. Xlidanergos, h nea genia tou neoellina.

Cheryl said...

Great article.

dorapap said...

I watched the Ρ.Χ.Σ. yesterday - it is so true tha we have to put up with such low salaries. I think that most people owe money to banks and credit cards just to survive...

Northerner said...

Very well put.Well done.

teacher dude said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. I think that the greatest problem is the fact so much of what we buy is controlled by cartels and monopolies which can charge whatever they like.

Anonymous said...

We need to make this doc as widespread as possible.
There is a torrent file over here if you want to watch/seed

Ivo said...

Wow, that's quite sad indeed, and almost unbelievable, €500 a month?? In Greece?!? That's nothing! In Sofia (where I live and where as you can imagine prices are a lot lower) that's about the high-average monthly salary now young people who know English and have PC skills earn.

Fancy_Man said...

Ah yes, the perceived doomed generation of Greece. The same generation that mostly own new cars, wear designer clothes, waste the day away at cafe's, and have their lifestyles almost totally subsidized by their parents. the same generation who will most likely be given properties, free of mortgage.

The problem in Greece is very much exaggerated. Greeks have money, and plenty of it(for now).

The next generation will suffer, but this generation 700 Euro are mostly mythical; only a small percentage of young Greeks suffer like that. Mostly the ones unfortunate enough not to be handed property.