The tourism industry dominates the preferences of young people

The crisis of the previous decade affected the Greek youth the most. They saw -compared to the rest of the age groups- their incomes decrease more and their prospects or conditions of joining the labor market worsen.

Many of them sought opportunities abroad. So it makes great sense for one to look better the characteristics of the young people of that period, but also their opinions. What did they think then, in the midst of the storm, about life and about work? In the same context, it is particularly interesting to observe both the perceptions of their environment, but also the various interactions between the generations of Greeks. To what extent are parents’ views related to their children’s views? How do many characteristics change over time and with each phase of the crisis?

The above questions are dealt with two new texts of diaNEOSIS, which are signed by a group of economists from the Athens University of Economics, KEPE and diaNEOSis. The researchers analyze in depth the Greek part of the pan-European project CUPESSE on youth unemployment and intergenerational relations, conducted in 11 countries, as well as longitudinal data from the ELSTAT Labor Force Survey.

These are two interesting analyses, which contribute to better understanding of the financial crisis of the 2010s and its consequences for young people and they can leave useful knowledge for the future. Moreover, even today when young people occupy the public debate for different reasons (for the impact of the pandemic on education, for the so-called “Great Resignation”, for housing problems, etc.) these analyses, to some extent , describe timeless characteristics of young people and the way they think and make decisions.

The main features

But before we know what they think, we need to get to know them better. The first of the two texts, entitled “Youth unemployment and employment in Greece: A quantitative approach” focuses more on the descriptive characteristics of young people and their work situation in different phases of the crisis in the previous decade. The researchers examine data for the years 2004 to 2019 from ELSTAT’s Labor Force Survey, a sample survey that is carried out four times a year and covers the entire population of the country.

The analysis of the NEOSIS focuses on people aged 15 to 29 years. One of the first things one notices in the findings is the significant effect of demographic trends. Young people aged 25-29, i.e. one of the three sub-groups distinguished by the researchers in the broader age category of young people, although they retain the largest share of the youth population, in the period 2008-2019 see this share decrease. The researchers attribute this change to “adverse demographic changes, due to the decrease in births over time, as well as the demographic changes caused by the economic recession, such as the immigration of young Greeks and the flight of immigrants who were in the country”.

Young people may be dwindling but, despite the crisis, they are slowly but surely becoming more educated. The analysis of the educational level of young people from 2008 to 2019 reveals a clear decrease in the percentage of less educated young people – those who complete only primary and only high school – but also an increase in the share of young people who complete higher education. For the most part, the remaining educational levels remain stable.

Young workers

Over time, men work at a higher rate than women. However, specifically among young people aged 15-29 for the period on which the study focuses, this difference from the 10 percentage points that it was in 2004 is steadily decreasing, to arrive at the end of 2017 to have been reduced to about half. There, until 2019, it stabilizes. However the participation rate of young people as a whole in the labor market, for both sexes, decreases especially after 2008. The researchers attribute the decline in part to the crisis: “One can assume that the economic crisis plays a role“, they write, either encouragecausing young people to prolong their stay in education, either by forcing them to migrate (…), or by discouraging them and removing them from the labor market altogether”.

However, most – especially the younger ones – stay away from the labor market because they are studying. The majority of young people aged 15-24 are out of work because they are in education. In fact, this percentage seems to increase over time, much more so for some specific subcategories, such as women aged 15-24.

Finally, the researchers find that for this time there is a tendency for young people to remain, from year to year, stagnant. Those who are working tend to still be working the following year, those in education tend to continue their studies and those who are unemployed tend to remain “trapped” in unemployment.

But how do those who work work? Part-time employment is relatively high at younger ages, but most young people still work full-time. The largest proportion of working young people – more than 8 in 10 – work full time. Indeed, the percentage of those working part-time, from 2008 to 2019 has more than doubled (from 8.4% to 18.7%).

But where do young workers work during that period? Tourism appears to dominate as an industry for the two “younger” youth groups (15-19 years and 20-24 years), while the “older” 25-29 year olds are more engaged in trade. However, in all categories of young people, tourism significantly increases its share from 2008 to 2019, which is in line with the great growth experienced by the sector, especially after the middle of the previous decade. The most common occupation of young people is service workers and salespeople.

The unemployed youth

But what are the characteristics of young people who are neither in education nor working? As we saw above, young women face higher unemployment rates than men. Despite the narrowing of this difference from 2004 to 2010, the “gap” opens again after 2014. However, regardless of gender, as the age of young people increases (from 15 to 20 and then to 29) the their unemployment rate decreases.

Equally interesting are the unemployment rates by education level. During the Great Depression, as unemployment rises, more educated young people find it almost as difficult as less educated people to find a job: the unemployment rates of all categories almost converge. Conversely, in periods when unemployment is falling, the gap widens: Those with more education work at a higher rate. It is also interesting that the job search time of unemployed youth even after the recovery of employment is increasing. The situation in 2019 is quite similar to that of 2013: Only 1 in 10 young people found a job within up to two months, possibly for different reasons.

The important factors

Finally, the authors tried to quantitatively approach, with an econometric model, those factors that best “predict” the unemployment or employment of a young person in the period 2004-2019. After even this more technical analysis, they come to six interesting observationswhich remain relevant today.

Certainly they realize the great importance of education which, they note, “acts as a shield against youth unemployment”. They then write about the importance of gender: “The role of women in the Greek family and society is directly linked to their inclusion in the workforce and the possibility of unemployment (…). Policies to combat gender discrimination, as well as the inclusion in the educational program of educating children on issues of gender equality, are of critical importance”.

For employment in the public sector note that “it can no longer be a solution to the fight against youth unemployment”. They also highlight the importance of geography in youth unemployment: “Of the thirteen regions of Greece, eight register worse unemployment probabilities for both sexes“. For his role tourism sector they write that “another aspect of its importance in the economic life of the country is that it is the main employer of young people, facilitating their entry into the labor market”. Finally, they note that “the effect of the pandemic on the main sectors of youth employment can be maintained after the health crisis possibly by changing behaviors more permanently” complementing this observation with the example of the surge in e-commerce that may reduce sales jobs prevalent among young people.

Conclusions

Finally, what can we learn by establishing the above relationships (and even more that you can find in the text)? The authors attempt, at the end of the study, to draw some conclusions. They stand enough in the fact that in several questions Greek youth’s identification with their parents is weaker than in other countries. Moreover, in any case, they do not observe any specific pattern that systematically distinguishes Greece from the rest of the countries. Greek young people do not seem to have overall more the same (or different) views on work, compared to the other 9 countries in the analysis. What could this mean?

The authors write: “After all, the effect of the family in Greece is not what one would expect in the context of the Mediterranean social model that prevails in our country in which the family has a dominant position, at least in the issues examined in the present study. Furthermore, the fact that these results concern a period within the debt crisis of the Greek economy means that they may be related to a relative discrediting of the views of the previous generation, whose views and actions contributed to the economic crisis faced by today’s youth. As the public debt corresponds to the borrowing of resources from subsequent generations it is reasonable to expect the generation which is called upon to pay part of the debt of its parents’ generation to question their views.”

Finally, the authors observe two more, very interesting facts:

  • Greek parents seem to be much more absolute in their views than their children. They answer more often overall that they strongly agree or strongly disagree with a point of view.
  • Simultaneously, the Greek youth of 2016, in the midst of a polarizing economic crisis that sometimes took on international dimensions, seem, in general, to converge in their views with European youth. The authors attribute this finding to “developing closer ties between them due to globalization and the development of technology, but also then study abroad by many”. They conclude by combining the two findings into an observation that deserves further and better investigation in the future:

“Greek youth are probably more moderate than their parents, raised in a globalized society that changes, evolves and communicates rapidly, having acquired different ideals and priorities that keep pace with the needs and demands of the time.”

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The article is in Greek

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