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Greeks flee abroad to find work

- by John Swift

Greeks flee abroad to find work.

Any regular holiday visitor to the Greek Islands will know how hard most Greeks work to make a living, contrary to the stereotype of feckless layabouts wallowing in comfort on Euro loans.

Most Greeks I know need more than one job to make ends meet and work hard for their low wages and poor pensions.

Now, with Greek unemployment touching 20% many are leaving the cities and heading home to family farms to survive the current economic crisis.

Many Greeks hit by economic hardship are turning to agriculture in search of a better life. They see better prospects and more hope on the farms than in cities, where job losses are severe and pay is being cut.

It is a little bewildering then to learn just how difficult it is for someone to start a business in Greece.

One of the worst examples is that of a young man who lost his city job, returned to his parent's farm and tried to set up as a cattle breeder.

He found his plans blocked at every turn by Byzantine labyrinths of Greek bureaucracy. When he tried to build stockade to house his cattle he found that he needed to complete no fewer than 18 forms before he could even begin.

He was told he needed signed certificates from the Local Municipality, the Directorate of General Forestry. the Topographical Directorate and the Directorate of Agricultural Economy and Veterinary Medicine.

He also needed permission from Directorate of Health, Public Hygiene and Social Services, Ephorate of Contemporary and Modern Monuments, Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities as well as consulting the Evaluating Committee of the local Municipality, Urban Planning and the local Mayor to confirm the land was not already allocated for cattle breeding.

He was also required to show tax returns for the previous four years, to get registered as a cattle breeder and obtain a cash receipt confirming that the land allocation had been paid for. Oh yes, and confirmation of an affirmative decision by the Municipality's Committee on Life Quality as well as the correct designation of land use from government officials.

The young man eventually gave up and left the country to find a job.

According to recent reports many Greek unemployed people are now returning to rural villages and to farming. Communities across the country are offering farmland to those who have work.

New programmes have been launched to boost the agricultural economy including several on the Greek islands such as Rhodes and Lesvos.

But with the weight of Greek bureaucracy bearing down on them it is no wonder that many Greeks are now fleeing abroad to find work.