Young in Greece vs. young in Germany

Posted on July 17 2013

by Heidi Beha

heidi_beha-2012-2015-modifiedYoung people in Greece return back to their childhood home. They cannot start their own life, have their own family. This is what awaits Theodora Matziropoulou as well: Almost two-thirds of the people in her country under 30 are without a job, statistics indicate. In Germany only about eight per cent are unemployed. The future of young people couldn’t look more different in two EU member states. A confrontation of two realities.

Theodora Matziropoulou, 25 years old from Thessaloniki/Greece
Education: High School; Bachelor degree in Balkan sciences, slavic science and Orientalistik in Thessaloniki and Brighton; Master degree in Cultural policy and management in Belgrade/Serbia; various internships
foreign languages: English, Serbian, Russian, German

Heidi Beha, 28 years old from Titisee-Neustadt/Germany
Education: High School; University diploma in political science, literature, economics in Augsburg and Wroclaw; various internships
foreign languages: English, French, Russian, Polish

How difficult is it to find a job and what about the salary?
Theodora: I just finished my studies and I try not to return to Greece but to find a job in another European country. It would be like in a fairy tale to earn 800 Euros in Thessaloniki. At the moment I would have to be happy with 580 Euros before taxes which means 470 Euros after taxes if I get a job at all. My generation is called 400 Euro generation in Greece. For keeping my standard of living which means a flat together with my boyfriend which costs 500 Euros and normal expenses I would have to get a second job. As a student I worked in a café. I liked the work there but after a few years of studying you expect more from a profession.

Heidi: As a university graduate it is quite easy to find a good job in Germany. There are many job ads and if one is not to inflexible concerning the region one wants to work, one finds an interesting job. I earn about as much as average university graduates in Germany do which is 3000 Euros a month gross. This means about 1800 Euros net. Often you get also paid less. Leaving the university one has to negotiate the salary what is difficult for many youngsters. Their self-esteem is low even if they had a very good education. In Germany many young people put themselves under pressure as they don’t want to be unsuccessful or unemployed. To be perceived as someone without any function in society and economy seems for many young people in Germany like a nightmare. They rather take a badly paid job or internship with boring tasks.

Theodora Matziropoulou

Theodora Matziropoulou

What do you think when you think of your professional future?
Theodora: I believe in myself and in my abilities. While studying I took advantage of this time and did internships, gained first work experience, spent time abroad and engaged myself in European youth projects. I think I did a good job. My self-esteem is just fine, my education wide and my CV looks good. However, for me it feels like this is not relevant at all for the labour market and a professional life in Greece.

Heidi: For me it seems as one can find a good job at any time in Germany at the moment. As a starter you will mainly just get temporary contracts. This has been differently in the past, many tell me. Such short-term contracts make me more flexible and the job market more permeable. I don’t expect to work decades for the same employer. Employers tend not to hire you forever so I also don’t want to work with them forever. What makes me thinking to work abroad is that you might get quicker more responsibility and the possibility to decide and create on your own. In Germany I sometimes think that young people aren’t as much respected as older people in what they can carry out.

…and your private future?
Heidi: Recently I understood that pregnant women aren’t a financial problem for companies as they would have to supply them during the pregnancy and afterwards when they still can’t work. So far that was the prejudice in my head. Companies in Germany only have to find a substitute worker everything else is paid by the health insurances and have to pay anyway in a common fond for paying the costs of children. Young parents tell me that it is not easy to have a family in Germany nowadays which makes me a bit sad.

Theodora: Having children without a job is not possible. I am not thinking of a family yet but friends of mine. It is difficult to have children if you don’t know like for example my boyfriend if you are employed after the summer as a teacher. That’s a reason why young people don’t start their own lives. It would be simply too risky. My boyfriend and I are able to finance our flat now but this could change quickly. This would mean I had to return back to my parent’s house.

You can find the German version here.