ATHENS (Reuters) - Let down by politicians and trade unions, Greece’s young professionals are taking to the blogosphere to try to improve their prospects.
They are tired of bumping against a 700 euro ($940) monthly salary ceiling and too poor to buy their own homes and start families. The blog they set up to vent their frustrations has caught on so fast that opposition politicians are taking notice.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Thanassis, 28, one of the blog’s founders who declined to give his surname to avoid problems with his employers in the civil service.
“We never expected such a reaction and such input. It has raised issues people are thinking about daily.”
The blog, g700.blogspot.com, highlights the plight of young, educated and unemployed or underpaid Greeks and has got more than 700 hits a day since its launch in February.
“Do you consider that old ideologies and existing parties and workers’ unions do not represent you adequately? Luckily something is moving in this deadlock,” the Web site says.
“The silent majority, all of us young people making 700 euros a month, finally are getting a voice.”
Generation 700, as the group has called itself to highlight the low monthly wages many young Greeks earn, wants to set an agenda on labour market, social security and education reforms — issues which do not rate highly for political parties.
Trade unions have failed to promote these matters with central government, the group says, so offer essentially no protection for young workers in the public sector.
The civil servants’ umbrella union ADEDY, representing nearly half a million workers, said young workers should join if they wanted to force changes.
“We have been demanding a basic salary of 1,250 euros for years,” ADEDY president Spyros Papaspyros told Reuters. “The challenge is for them to come and join us and, united, to continue our active efforts for a better work environment.”
One in five Greeks, or more than 2 million people, live in poverty despite economic growth of about 4 percent, which is among the highest in the European Union.
Unemployment has remained stubbornly high, partly as structural legal obstacles in Greece make it difficult to hire and fire workers. New hirings have mainly been in public service positions while private job placement has lagged.
About one in three workers in Greece is paid directly or indirectly via state coffers.
Greece last year recorded unemployment of 8.9 percent, its lowest level since 1998 but still above the European average of 7.4 percent. The long-term unemployed made up nearly 55 percent of the total jobless, and 40 percent of them are under the age of 29.
An ageing population — and a pension system that will collapse in 15 years unless it is reformed — add to the young professionals’ burden.
“The future for educated young Greeks as it stands is to pay for all the mistakes of previous generations and that is not acceptable or fair,” said Thanassis, a Cambridge University graduate with a postgraduate degree from Athens University.
The ruling conservatives who came to power in 2004 have won European Union praise for a series of belt-tightening fiscal measures and reforms aimed at bringing the country’s budget deficit to below the 3 percent of GDP ceiling.
But they are facing growing discontent and protests over what Greeks say are broken pre-election promises.
Months of street protests by students demanding more money for education and workers demonstrating for pay rises have further hit the government’s popularity.
Thanassis said the blog sprang from the need to feel an integral part of society, not an economic outcast.
“We say ‘come out and speak about the issues that hurt you, about what we can all do to make things better for us’,” he said.
With an election in the offing, possibly as early as October, the blog has triggered interest among political parties. The opposition Socialists have been quick to accuse the government of shunning Generation 700.
“I call them the young with clipped wings entering an almost medieval labour market,” socialist deputy Michalis Chrisochoidis, in charge of his party’s parliamentary sector on education and culture, told Reuters.
“We need to address taboos, Greek holy cows like pension reform, which once tackled, will improve conditions significantly. At the moment we just stand awkwardly facing them and doing nothing.”