Since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008, hundreds of thousands of Greeks have left their homeland to seek employment abroad. Unlike past waves of emigration from Greece, the current wave is composed primarily of well-educated youth, whose precious knowledge and skills will be used to the advantage of other countries. Their exodus poses two major policy challenges: first, how to stem the outflow and utilize their knowledge and skills at home and, second, how to harness the enormous potential of Greeks currently abroad to benefit the Greek economy, by mobilizing the diaspora to use their knowledge, skills, talents, resources, and networks in ways which will positively impact the Greek economy. It is on this second set of policy challenges that this book focuses.
OECD data on emigrants living in OECD and other countries reveal the increased educational level of those leaving Greece over the last decade compared to their predecessors. The populations of people born in Greece residing in various destination countries differ markedly, however, in terms of their educational profile. The Greek-born population living in the UK is by far the most educated, with nearly 70% holding a university degree, while only a small proportion of the Greek-born population in Germany has a university degree. Nonetheless, the composition of the Greek-born population living in Germany is changing rapidly, given that in the last decade Germany overtook the US as the number-one destination of Greek emigrants and that the educational level of recent Greek emigrants to Germany greatly exceeds that of Greeks who moved to Germany in previous decades.
The Greek diaspora contains hugely successful business people, professionals, and academics, while its pool of talent is constantly expanding. So far, Greece has done little to utilise its valuable diaspora to the benefit of its economy. The international experience abounds with examples of successful diaspora policies implemented by both developing and developed countries, such as the creation of professional, scientific, and entrepreneurial networks which facilitate transfers of skills and knowledge and promote business development.
For instance, the Talent Network for Innovation of ChileGlobal is composed of highly skilled members of Chile’s diaspora who contribute their time, experience, contacts, knowledge, and skills in order to create innovative Chilean companies and help existing companies to innovate and globalise. The Global Irish Network is composed of very influential Irish and Irish-connected business people based in forty countries who contribute to Irish economic development by promoting foreign direct investment and providing practical assistance to Irish exporters. Indus Entrepreneurs is a network of highly-skilled overseas Indians founded in Silicon Valley in 1992 which organizes hundreds of networking and entrepreneurship events every year and has played a major role in creating high-tech firms in India and stimulating spectacular economic growth.
Greece needs to utilize the potential of its diaspora to enhance economic growth. Drawing on the rich international policy experience, the specific diaspora population segments and individuals that can make a valuable contribution to the Greek economy need to be identified and effectively mobilized, in order to capture the development benefits offered by its exceptionally talented diaspora.