04/11/2011 06:38 pm ET Updated Jun 11, 2011

When Young People Stopped Dreaming in Greece

There is a motto in the Greek language which is often used and refers to how Greece treats young people living in the country and struggling to succeed in their life. It is usually said that "Greece strangles its own children". It is a phrase which does not have, of course, a literal meaning, but it is indicative of the lack of opportunities in Greece nowadays for the most active and dynamic part of its population, which is its youth. Huffington Post's readers are probably aware of the harmful economic crisis that has hit Greece, but they are not likely to know many things about another parallel tragedy which is taking place inside the country and is reflected on young Greek people's lives.

I want to highlight the term "tragedy" that I used above, since this word conveys in full the terrible situation within which young students and professionals in Greece have been plunged. Most of them consider themselves trapped in a country which is currently unable to provide them with optimism for some good professional prospects regarding their own future. Here, I should be more frank than ever and say that Greece, today, is the worst place for either a young professional or a young researcher to live in and try to build there his own personal career and life. And this is a very sad and embarrassing reality, even for me who left Greece to pursue my academic and career goals abroad, before the economic crisis started breaking out in my country. But, actually, is that economic crisis the only reason why Greece was transformed into such an inhospitable environment for young professionals?

Of course, the current economic situation has increased the unemployment rate in unprecedented high levels, close to 15%, and reduced dramatically the job opportunities in Greece. Someone might allege that these are simply symptoms, which are normally surfacing over any economic crisis until it passes. But in the case of Greece the labor market does not suffer only by these symptoms. The youngest professionals are hit by yet another one significant cause, apart from the very high unemployment rates, which drives them towards an insuperable impasse. This cause is the absence of meritocracy in Greece that creates inequality between those people who have access to resources of political or economic power in the country and those who don't. This kind of inequality excludes the vast majority of young professionals from the rest of the range of existing job opportunities in Greece. So, searching for a job is based on criteria such as who you are, who your parents are, what your connections are and, maybe, who has introduced you to your prospective employer, rather than what your merits are and how much productive and proper you could be for that job position. What I have just described to you is the main reason why young people in my country feel disappointed by the way Greece treats them by cutting their dreams short, refuting their expectations and plunging them even deeper into desperation. But, for those young professionals who eventually find a job, the majority of them is obliged to work for the minimum compensation per month, or even work unpaid for a long period of time having their employer's promise that sometime in the future they may have a small wage.

The current economic crisis pushed many of these young Greek professionals and researchers to abandon their country and attempt to find abroad those opportunities that their homeland deprives them. Many decades ago, Greece produced a lot of immigration flows to other foreign countries, and particularly to the US and Germany, with thousands of Greek people going there to work and starting a new life abroad. Greece is now facing the same situation but the things are different today. The country is losing the most essential part of its society and labor market, that is young people who might help Greece overcome the current crisis. Young people are turning their backs to Greece because Greece turned its own back to them first. And the worst thing for Greece, beyond the high deficits and huge unsustainable debts, is that its own young people have lost the right to dream about the future in their own country.