Sunday, 29 August 2010


A fascinating survey has just been published in Greece, ostensibly showing that a vast wave of immigration is about to start, leaving the country completely bare.

This was a survey of 5,500 "young" graduates aged 22 to 35 carried out by one of our major dailies and its sister internet portal. If you are puzzled by the choice of population, you may want to bear in mind that in Greece people are considered young at 35 - living with one's mom can have that effect. In a marked departure from common practice, these guys actually published their full chart deck for the survey, which allows one to find some amazing gems.

The critical finding was that three quarters (74%) of the sample would be OK to leave the country in return for a stable and well-paid job, and that half of these are already looking into this option. This is of course an ominous piece of statporn but the journos forgot to compare it to the intentions of Greeks in previous years. I reckon they would have found exactly the same.

There is one more catch: the monthly salaries my young compatriots expect upon landing in these shores are 50% higher than those they would put up with in Greece - an average of EUR871 to EUR1,650 extra. This is despite the fact that the majority cite quality of life as a reason for emigrating, which would suggest they might be willing to forego some income in order to live abroad.

Which begs the question - do workers abroad get paid 50% more per annum than their Greek counterparts? Respondents were urged by the survey to ignore current trends in the labour market (great advice!) in giving their answer and to focus only on what they believe their skills are worth, so let's take 2007 as a benchmark.I will also use an average of the fairly "decent" EU countries: AUT, BEL, DNK, ESP, FIN, FRA, GER, ITA, NLD & UK. You can find the European data here and the Greek data here.

The result is that European employees can expect about 78% more per annum over a year - but they also have to produce 24% more value added. Allowing for this mismatch in labour quality, our guys can expect 44% more money in Europe than in Greece - about 6% less than they had hoped for.

This is no trivial matter because the math of the Greeks' income expectations works out quite tightly. The majority of this sample probably live with their folks and about a quarter certainly have to because they cite their parents as their main source of income. The extra EUR870 they want as a minimum would just about pay for the rent, food and utilities they are getting free of charge right now. Throw in the fact that most Greeks will ty to use a graduate degree as a stepping stone to their adopted labour market, and the returns are actually not that great as marketable master's degrees cost upwards of EUR10,000.

The end result is that Greece will continue to suffer from brain drain at roughly the same rate as it does now - not a comforting finding but not quite the revelation the DOL group may have hoped for.

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