The country is hemorrhaging talent, as professionals in medicine, engineering and academics flee for a better economic climate and more stable employment.
Greece is in the midst of the worst brain drain in modern history, experts say.
“This is unprecedented in terms of the numbers of educated people that are leaving,” said Lois Labrianidis, a professor of economic geography at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The country is hemorrhaging talent, as professionals in medicine, engineering and academics flee for a better economic climate and more stable employment. The pain has been particularly severe in the health-care sector of Greece: Many of the country’s doctors have left or are making plans to do so.
“I don’t feel safe and secure for the future of my family here,” said Spyridon Kotsaris, an Athens orthopedic surgeon who has been planning for months to leave Greece with his wife and two daughters, preferably to Germany or Switzerland.
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“We want a better life,” he said. “A better life means we are all together and feel more secure.”
In all, nearly 300,000 people have left Greece since 2010, nearly 3 percent of the country’s population before the crisis, according to government statistics. That includes as many as 5,000 doctors, with about 3,500 of them ending up in Germany, where Europe’s financial crisis has had less impact.
“It’s not that big of a concern for me financially, because I work in Germany,” said Alexios Theodorou, a Greek general surgeon working at a hospital in Gummersbach in North Rhine-Westphalia. Theodorou left Greece five years ago, as the crisis was beginning.
“My paycheck is secured,” he said. “But that doesn’t make my concern about the future any less, as I have much family in Greece. Greece is where I still call home.”
In some ways, the loss of so much young talent may be more devastating to Greece in the long term than abandoning the euro, if that happens. That has left some who sought a better life feeling increasingly bittersweet about the decision to leave.
“I feel sad seeing my country going through this rough time,” Theodorou said. “We, the people who left, are not to blame for the situation, but we sometimes feel guilty that we are leaving, that we left the people there to handle their problems.”