Northern Greece has taken the number one spot in continental Europe for youth unemployment, according to Eurostat. In spite of major power infrastructure concentrated there, conditions created long before the debt crisis have become acute.
Our correspondent Symela Touchtidou explained that seven out of 10 young people are unable to find work in West Macedonia: “It used to be one of Greece’s most prosperous regions. Coal gave birth to the Public Power Corporation and thousands of well-paid jobs, until 10 years ago.”
Tasos Sidiropoulos, the West Macedonia Development Company programme director spoke to euronews in the region’s capital, Kozani.
He explained the main problem: “The absolute dominance of the energy sector emasculated any significant entrepreneurship that could have been developed.”
Spain’s Ceuta enclave in northern Africa registered an even higher youth unemployment rate in April, said Eurostat, but in Europe proper, landlocked West Macedonia’s 70.6 percent is the highest.
University qualifications can feel hardly relevant. Sound engineer Stefanos Stergiou, who is 24, feels the frustration of spending more time looking for work online than practising in the field he trained in.
Stergiou told us: “I’ve been looking for a job for two and a half years now. I search the web every day, special sites. I’ve sent CVs, in Greece and abroad. All I’ve managed to find are short-term jobs, mostly in bars, and without insurance.”
Western Macedonia University has 15,000 students enrolled, but new graduates find disappointment.
Rafaela Tsiavara, who is taking a master’s degree in arts now, said: “Like all my fellow students, I’ve applied for part-time teaching work in public schools, but with no luck. Most of us have applied to every private school in Greece for a position. But there are so many of us, schools can’t absorb that many teachers. Since we’re unemployed, some of us started post-graduate studies. Others are working in jobs that have nothing to do with their qualifications.”
The young degree-holders can also participate in exchange programmes, training schemes and other initiatives aimed at unlocking their futures.