Greece's Young and Bright Flee Crisis and Corruption
Labrianidis attributes this brain drain to a discrepancy in supply and demand for scientists within Greece, largely due to low demand for scientists from the private sector.
“This discrepancy cannot be perceived as a result of over-education in Greece, since Greece has not surpassed the optimal number of tertiary education graduates per capita… Concretely, Greek firms have not yet managed to occupy higher positions in the production value chains, in order to produce knowledge- and technology-intensive products and services,” he wrote in a report called ‘Investing in Leaving: The Greek Case of International Migration of Professionals’.
Aspiring academics who studied at private universities in Greece may find it easier to gain work abroad than at home, because the Greek government does not officially acknowledge their qualifications.
“Our private universities are not recognized by the Hellenic Republic, so graduates are not able to take jobs in public universities. They have to go before a committee, which will assess whether their qualification is suitable, and can be recognized. Bureaucracy is terrible for all Greek students,” said Tzogopoulos.
Those who studied abroad may also struggle to find work in Greece’s universities, as the government does not recognize any degree awarded outside of Greece, even those from other European Union countries.
Loss of Human Capital
Political and social analysts fear the long-term impact Greece may suffer from losing its brightest and best qualified citizens.
“I believe human capital is the most important factor in development. If a country loses it, this is a problem,” said Labrianidis. “The problem is even worse in Greece in that we are losing the most educated people, who are working abroad or are going to work abroad.”
“The politicians, the people who are making the legislation don’t really understand what it means to lose your human capital, to lose the most educated part of your human capital,” he added.
With the general election looming, Tzogopoulos is concerned the exodus will deprive Greece of new politicians who could spur its economy and politics out of the doldrums.
“It is very disappointing for Greek politics, because we need a change in the political personnel of the country. Instead the same people who led Greece into the crisis remain in the same positions in public administration. This worries me a lot,” he said.
“As things are now, the people who have left, they will not come back to Greece,” he added.
Those that do return are likely to be from more prosperous, “elite” families, according to Labrianidis. “These people’s parents have connections, or fortunes, or businesses, that can facilitate the return of their kids,” he said.
Rather than try to entice them home, Labrianidis said the government would do better in the short-term to encourage expats to work on behalf of Greece while remaining abroad.
“You don’t really expect these people to return, but on the other hand, there are quite a lot of them who are willing to work for Greece while they are abroad, or to come back for short periods,” he said.
“You can facilitate these things. For instance, you could sub-contract people for short periods back to the country. Or you could have a new appointment system whereby professors are able to hold joint positions between universities in different countries. Or you could have joint projects between countries,” he added.
Even with funding in place, Greek bureaucracy can still prove a bar to labor reforms or projects. For instance, Labrianidis said Greece had tapped an EU fund which finances graduate programs and apprenticeships in small firms. However, “There is too much bureaucracy within Greece for the businesses to access the funds,” he said.
In the meantime, commentators say the exodus of talented Greeks is likely to continue.
“It will definitely increase this year, because in 2012 we will experience the worst year yet of the crisis,” said Tzogopoulos.