The Greek economic crisis made headlines in 2010 when the country received a bailout from the EU and the International Monetary Fund. But the bailout came with a hefty price tag: the Greek government had to accept austerity measures that slashed paychecks, cut pensions, and raised the retirement age. Unemployment skyrocketed and wages dropped, all while the government passed new taxes to cover their bailout payments. Youth unemployment, meanwhile, hit a staggering 60% in 2013. And while the Greek economy today might show signs of turning around - unemployment has dropped and the economy has grown - daily life hasn't improved.
In fact, life in Greece has only gotten worse as the Greek citizens lose hope that conditions will ever improve. Like the economic crisis in Venezuela and numerous other examples of societies on the brink of financial collapse, Greeks continue to suffer, even if their struggle no longer makes headlines.
Greeks Say The Crisis Isn't Over, And They're Afraid Of The Future
The economic crisis continues to hurt Greek families. In 2016, more than 75% of Greek households lost a significant amount of their income. Forty percent were forced to cut spending on food. One in three households was home to an unemployed worker. A woman in her 70s confesses, "I don't think there's one person who's not afraid of the future."
Unemployment may have dropped, but average Greeks continue to struggle. As engineering student Dimitris Chalkitos explains, young people trying to enter the workforce have no work experience. Chalkitos doesn't feel hopeful about his country's future. He says, "The crisis isn't over. It just became our routine, our lives."
Many Greeks Lost Their Jobs And Homes
When the economic crisis began in Greece, many lost their jobs. Nikos Theodoridis, a construction worker, told USA Today that after 2009, construction simply stopped in Greece. Theodoridis not only lost his job, but he also lost his apartment and became homeless. He slept in a city park near the Prime Minister's home in Athens. Theodoridis remembers:
When it was raining, I would get in my sleeping bag and hope that the water wouldn't go through. Sometimes I still wonder how I made it. It's your need to survive.
The bailout program may have ended in August 2018, but for many, life in Greece remains incredibly difficult. While Theodoridis no longer sleeps in a park, he can barely afford rent on a studio apartment with his new job as a magazine vendor.
Many Live On The Brink Of Poverty Because Of Low Salaries
The Greek government agreed to austerity measures when it accepted its initial bailout. But more recent bailouts and austerity measures have been rejected by Greek voters. Regardless, government spending in Greece makes up 40% of the GDP, and government jobs are diminishing.
Vasiliki Gova, a cleaning woman, was one of those workers before the crisis. After losing her job, she held a two-year protest. Although she was eventually rehired, Gova reports that she and her coworkers are now classified as contract employees. "Our decades of work don't count now, so we're only getting the lowest salary again."
Low salaries force many Greeks to live on the brink of poverty.
Greece's Tourism Industry Has Been Hit Hard
Greece's tourism industry remains one of the most important in the country's economy. But between 2007 and 2014, Greece lost more than 20% of its jobs in tourism. From 2008 to 2010, tourism spending in the country dropped 17.4%. By 2017, the tourism industry began to pick up, but domestic tourism - or Greeks vacationing in Greece - continues to suffer. From 2009 to 2013, domestic tourism dropped nearly 40%. Domestic tourism often acts as a measure of the health of the economy.
While Greece might attract more international tourists than in the darkest days of the crisis, Greeks themselves cannot afford vacations. High unemployment and low wages mean most Greeks still struggle to afford necessities.