I recently completed writing ‘The end of Athens’ and have been told by many people that it is great timing, given the current situation in Greece. I actually wrote the manuscript as a separate issue from the economic and social troubles at the moment, but given the government’s recent extreme austerity measures, the truth, it seems, can be stranger than fiction.
With the unemployment rate hitting a new record of 21.7% in February, it is frustrating to think what many Greeks must be experiencing at the moment. Not all of Europe are in the red however, with Monaco still remaining the world’s number one country for wealth and prosperity, with an unemployment rate resting at 0%. San Marino has a healthy 3.1% unemployment rate, Liechtenstein 1.5% with a GDP purchasing power parity (alas, quality of life) the second highest in the world at $141,100 per person. There are still plenty of powerhouse economies in Europe doing well, despite the dozen or so hit by the Euro crisis. Greece, however, is going from bad to worse when the potential aftermath of the austerity measures are taken into account.
With Greece having some of the finest universities in the world, it is a stifling contrast to see that there is a youth unemployment rate of 54%. Similar to Hungary, who has access to world class education, especially made famous at tertiary level, these countries affected by the European sovereign-debt crisis are churning out some of the finest minds on the planet, with nowhere for them to go. Supply exceeds demand, and with Britain struggling just as much, many of the university-qualified youth are heading to Asia to take advantage of the many job opportunities, and the environment in which the world’s fastest growing economy excels. By 2030, China is expected to be the world’s largest economy. With Hong Kong officially overtaking New York City and London as the world’s top financial hub (measured by a market’s business and institutional environment, financial stability and development of stock, bond, currency and derivative markets), migration figures are expected to soar in a region that already contains 60% of the world’s population. The shift, thanks to the savvy business acumen of China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, India and South Korea, will be explosive given China’s rate of economic growth. Foreign direct investment worked a charm.
So where does this leave countries such as Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Hungary, Italy and Spain? With youth unemployment rates forcing a fight or flight response for survival, migration to the continent of Asia has already begun as a necessity. As with all great waves of migration (i.e. Australia: Italians, Greeks, Lebanese, Vietnamese and Sudanese), it comes down to going where the money is. With Greece in particular, the harsh austerity measures mean less public spending, a reduction in the number of jobs and a potentially higher tax rate in order to repay its debt. The result? An increase in an already startling unemployment rate, and a severe crack in a social construct where much of the population relies on public service. Economic health will come at the price of social well-being, but in the meantime while the world waits for all to come good (estimates placing a recession to pre-cycle unemployment rates being at least five years), the highly literate, unemployed youth will be forced to leave their country to find work. Greece will then struggle in the corporate sector to find workers and contribute to the restructure of the faltering economy. The vicious cycle continues. A massive generational gap will be left, further crippling the social situation in Greece.
With all the news going on at the moment, it’s easy to become desensitised to what’s going on in the world. It’s no longer about finding a career to match your qualifications, it’s about finding a job to survive. Economics can be a vicious yo-yo of theoretical assumptions and an over-reliance on ceteris paribus. The real effects of the crisis are on the people, who day by day find themselves torn between countries of high power discrepancy in search for a better life.
At its core, migration will play a larger role than perhaps ever before.