Young Greeks Find 'The Math Just Doesn't Work' Amid Crisis

By Joanna Kakissis

April 7, 2013

The latest statistics show Greece and Spain with the highest unemployment rates in the eurozone, both at more than 26 percent. For young Greeks, the numbers are much worse: Nearly 60 percent of people under 25 are out of work, a figure that is expected to rise.

These aren't just numbers for 24-year-old Marios Kyriakou, who was recently sipping a sweet espresso freddo at an arty cafe in his neighborhood. He says he's even had to cut back on that small pleasure.

"If you give every day 3 euros [for an espresso freddo], then at the end of the month, you will see that the cafe is something very expensive," Kyriakou says.

He worries about money. He recently received his bachelor's degree in Greek history and literature. For six years, he also worked as a private tutor for schoolchildren, but last year many parents lost their jobs and couldn't pay him anymore.

"My family, until now, gives me money to have my food, to [get out] with my friends, with my girlfriend," he says.

Kyriakou lives with his grandmother and younger sister in Zografou, the leafy Athens suburb where grew up. His parents live in their ancestral home in the wine-growing region of Nemea.

His parents give him about 160 euros a month — that's about $200.

Kyriakou spends some of it going out for a coffee or a weekly outing at the local tsipouradiko, where he shares a meze platter and a small bottle of tsipouro — pomace brandy — with his friends. He banks the rest of the money to visit Munich, where his Greek-German girlfriend, Elena, lives.

"I went to see her during Christmas," he says. "It was an expensive journey, I have to say, but that's love."

Kyriakou wants to stay in Greece, but he can't find a job.

"If you are lucky and find a job, the money you will earn [will be] very low," he says. "We speak about wages 300 euros per month. A young man nowadays with 300 euros cannot live alone, cannot pay the bills. He cannot create a family."

Across town, Eleni Garanzioti is showing her handmade necklaces at an exhibit in central Athens. Garanzioti, who is also 24, moved back home after she lost her job as a beautician last year."

"I was this young person with so much energy and appetite for work," she said. "And I had no outlet for it. I felt like a financial burden to my parents. I just wanted to find a way to be independent."

So six months ago, Eleni and her older sister, Gogo, started Sismade, an online jewelry shop based in Kyparissia, their hometown in southwestern Greece. Their parents gave them seed money.

"Seventy percent of our friends are unemployed," Gogo says. "Those who work don't talk about it so the others don't feel bad."

The sisters haven't made a profit yet, but they say it feels great to be working again.

Back in Zografou, Kyriakou shops for groceries. He frowns at the receipt: He just paid $20 for eight basic items. Even groceries are too expensive.

"How can someone who makes 300 euros a month ever be independent?" he asks. "The math just doesn't work."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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