by Alexia Kalaitzi, Greece
The Greek economy is in recession, youth unemployment has reached shocking dimensions: In a situation were it cannot get much worse, young people have found a surprising solution: taking the economic future in their own hands by starting new business models.
Despite of the huge youth unemployment statistics (57%, Eurostat), showing that the new generation of Greece is a so-called “lost generation”, many young people seem to find ways not only to survive from the economical crisis, but more importantly to be inspired from it. The second biggest city in Greece, Thessaloniki, has been honored with the title of European Youth Capital in 2014. Throughout the year, the city has the chance to present and prove the dynamic and creativity of its youth population. Journalist, Sotiris Tsoumatidis, born and raised in Thessaloniki, told Orange: “What is happening has changed the mentality of young people at a satisfying level, who have now turned more to alternative industries such as entertainment or tourism. The way of thinking of the past cannot be changed in a period of a few years but the financial stagnation has made my generation more creative. Apathy is not something that I see in the eyes of my peers. Instead I can see smile and optimism”.
The Head of the Greek Association of Young Entrepreneurs of Central Macedonia, Anestis Anastasiou, said that young people have started to look at their professional future in a more mature way even from their early career steps. Anastasiou said that although it is not certain whether the number of young entrepreneurs has increased, the mentality behind youth entrepreneurship has changed. For many young people this change in mentality is now the only way to ensure a successful future. In a time when they cannot find a job matching their qualifications, they start creating jobs for themselves, making start-ups a trend in Greece. There are many examples of youngsters who launch their own business based on an innovative idea. They take their family business and make them grow or start a business based on a traditional concept, but adding something new and special to it, such as traditional restaurants using only organic products.
“The image of the typical businessman, aged 35 to 40, has changed, with many youngsters entering the business world after or even during their studies,” says Anastasiou. IT and web marketing services, as well as mobile phone applications, are some of the fields that many young entrepreneurs are interested in. With a very good package of hard skills, young Greeks often establish such kind of service-based companies around innovative concepts and modern technologies. A characteristic example is Taxibeat, a mobile phone application that allows users to call a taxi just with a tap from their iPhones. Developed by two young Greeks, the application has already been expanded in many countries around the world.
Commenting on the way the Greek state supports youth, Tsoumatidis said that political leaders and the political system, as well as the structure of society can often discourage young people. Bureaucracy, corruption and a very volatile taxation system are the main barriers when it comes to entrepreneurship, adds Anastasiou. Still he noticed that the situation concerning these obstacles has slowly but gradually started to improve.
The question remains, whether the young Greek generation is hopeless or if it can bring innovation to the country. With a refined mentality, away from the dream of being employed in the public sector or finding a job directly after university, young people seem to have deployed their creativity and passion. In order to build a better future for themselves and their country, many Greek youngsters dare to make their dreams a reality as entrepreneurs and tech innovators.