Young Greeks struggle with unemployment, staying at parents' home

2013-02-03 20:38:25 GMT2013-02-04 04:38:25(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

By Alexia Vlachou, Maria Spiliopoulou

ATHENS, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Faced with unemployment and deep recession, several young Greeks today are forced to forget about their independence and prolong their stay at their parents' house to get through the crisis.

Greece is ranked fourth across the European Union on the percentage of youth aged 25 to 34 living with their parents, according to the latest data released by Eurostat.

In 2012, about 50.7 percent of young adult Greeks lived under the family's roof, because they could not afford to pay for their own accommodation.

The prospects for a dramatic change during the New Year are grim. With joblessness hitting new record highs every month, 26.8 percent in October 2012 and 57.6 percent for under 25's, according to the latest officials estimates, and GDP declining for a sixth consecutive year, Yannis Sinanidis cannot see himself moving out of his parents' home any time soon.

Sinanidis, a 34-year old mechanic, unemployed for the past 24 months, is a typical example of the young Greek jobless who experienced a hard landing due to the crisis since 2010.

Sinanidis had left his old room ten years ago, after finishing his studies and getting his first job in a small private company in Athens. He had rented a small apartment and started making his way in the world on his own. He could pay his bills and save to enjoy summer holidays and travel across Europe and dream about starting a family.

"I was living comfortably. It was not big, it was not like I was living the dolce vita earning 1,400 euros (1,898 U.S. dollars) per month, but I had my own place of 45 square meters where I could invite friends. I was free," he told Xinhua.

His world collapsed a few months after Greece was hit by the severe debt crisis which has led the country to the brink of a chaotic default and millions of households suffering from the pains of tough austerity.

Dismissed from his job due to cutbacks, with his savings evaporating, he moved back in with his parents, both pensioners, at their old home in central Athens, until better days will come.

A few decades ago, the image of a grown man in his 30s living with mom and dad was not odd or unwelcome in Greece. Traditionally, young people would leave home only when married or for studies and work abroad. The situation had changed in recent years, but due to the economic crisis more and more Greeks are obliged to embrace again the old traditions.

"Unemployment was a shock to me and my family, in particular because we realized that the prospects of finding a job position again in the near future are bleak. It's not easy on all of us. Relying on your parents' trimmed pension for fundamental every day expenses or seeing your healthy, strong child sinking into depression.. It's not easy," Sinanidis explained.

"On the other hand, without their aid, in particular psychological support, I wouldn't make it. I am grateful they are by my side. I feel together we will overcome everything," he stressed.

Initially he felt embarrassed, ashamed for what he considered a personal defeat. He would avoid telling people that he lives under the family's roof again. The situation worsened once the unemployment benefit of some 400 euros per month he was eligible for finished after the first year.

Even though the family struggles to make ends meet every month, with no income of his own he has to pay some 100 euros monthly for his health insurance. He shook off the feelings of failure and depression, after seeing other former colleagues and neighbors in worse.

A few years ago, Sinanidis would feel as the fly in the milk, a black sheep. Today this is not the case. He realized that society does not look down on unemployed as failures, because most of the laid off employees on the streets did nothing wrong.

Today he sees several competent, hard working people suffering worse from the crisis, facing the risk of homelessness with no adequate support from relatives and friends. Solidarity within society helps ease the pain, but handouts do not resolve the problem.

Today he considers himself lucky for his family's relatively strong safety net and despite difficulties insists on handing out CVs and searching for job opportunities across Greece and abroad in the internet.

It's a similar story for 31-year-old Achilleas Platoyannis and 28-year old Eleni Vlachopoulou. Platoyannis is a graduate in Accounting. He worked as an accountant in a big firm for five years. He didn't have enough time to set up his one household, before getting laid off. He still lives with his parents.

"It is not my choice, or theirs, but we have no options at the moment. It is certainly not pleasant for everybody. People want to have their space and to move on and my generation seems to have no perspective," he said.

Vlachopoulou holds a university degree in tourism & management, has worked at several hotels and tourism agencies and lost her last job as a receptionist in a major local company on New Year's Eve in the last wave of mass layoffs. She lives with her parents and younger sister in Athens on a 360-euro monthly unemployment allowance.

"It is frustrating living with your parents at my age and have them helping out. It is difficult to have a private life. If you have a place at your own, you find yourself; you stand on your feet. Unfortunately I don't have this luxury. But, it is good to have a warm and welcome place to be in difficulties," she told Xinhua.

Each day over the past year, more than 1,000 Greeks lose their jobs in the private sector. They are left with diminished compensations due to the newly introduced austerity measures and diminished possibilities to find a new job position paying more than the minimum wage of some 600 euros and benefits.

Platoyannis is unemployed for more than a year and finds it very difficult to get a new job. Though he applies for jobs every day, he hasn't find anything in his field.

"The only positive element in this crisis is that nobody should feel alone in this. We, as society, have learnt to be close with our families and we must feel lucky that we all support each other through difficult times," he stressed.

On the other hand, he is not pleased with the extent of state aid granted to the masses of jobless. "There is no plan for development on the government's part. There is also no plan for our future," he said.

Vlachopoulou agrees that "more should be done to assist young people."

Unemployment allowances in Greece for decades are granted only to laid-off workers on full time employment during the past two years. The payments which are given for a maximum 12 months, are fixed according to working experience and the level of the last salary.

As tens thousands small and medium size family enterprises closed down due to the crisis and jobless people face longer term unemployment, the government decided to extend the unemployment benefits and include the self-employed.

In addition, despite budget cuts to slash deficits, the state extended health insurance and social aid programs to include more and more people in need and with the financial assistance of European counterparts boosted training programs for the unemployed to strengthen their skills and increase their prospects of finding a job.

Sinanidis, like Platoyannis, does not expect any miracles from "such short-term solutions", but he does not lose hope. He believes that next year perhaps economy will start recovering with the implementation of the necessary long-delayed reforms and through investments job positions will be created.

He might not agree with all the painful policies introduced by politicians over the past two years under bailout agreements with international creditors, who keep Greece afloat with rescue loans, but he agrees on this; the only credible solution to the current crisis and his own situation is to boost growth. (1 euro=1.35 U.S. dollars)

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