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In Greece, education isn't the answer

A generation of Greeks has graduated from university prepared for nonexistent jobs.

In global terms, young Greeks don’t appear to be suffering: They’re well-dressed, well-fed and decked out in designer accessories.

But while the country as a whole has become more prosperous in recent decades, the 700 Euro Generation is finding they’ve been educated for an economy that doesn’t exist.

Greek universities churn out graduates in philology and history, but employers want graduates in technology or business administration. The service industries, especially tourism, are still the country’s largest employers.

Economists like Koutsiaras also say the country’s high social security taxation rates and sluggish bureaucracy have created a labor market stacked against new entrants. It also encourages a large shadow, or black market, economy in which many young people like Zindrou find themselves trapped.

“They are misled, but they are misled not by their parents. They are misled by the schools,” Koutsiaras said.

A less charitable name for the G700 is the “xlidanergoi” or “luxury unemployed.” Some critics say young Greeks, who grew up during a period of peace and prosperity, expect the benefits of a middle class life without the hard work.

Immigrants now largely fill well-paid but unglamorous jobs that require manual labor but little education, like construction. In Greece, a butcher or a house cleaner can make more than a civil servant, but most young Greeks shun such work.

Gouglas and his fellow bloggers at didn’t agree with the violence that characterized many of protests in December, but say young people have reason to be angry.

Unlike many of those who took to the streets in December, they have specific demands: They want better pay for young people, but also labor market reform and improved education.

In the wake of December’s riots, politicians are beginning to take notice. Earlier this month, parliament held a session on how to improve the opportunities for young Greeks and the country’s prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, pledged to push through a set of youth-oriented reforms.

“We risk losing a whole generation,” said Gouglas. “It’s a ticking time-bomb.”

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