More Greek migrants seeking work in Australia

first_imgAustralia is experiencing a second wave of Greek immigration in the wake of the Greek sovereign debt crisis, which is threatening to further destabilise the country’s economy and cause financial panic in the eurozone and beyond. As it stands, the nation is facing a very real prospect of leaving behind the euro and returning to the drachma.Practically all Greek businesses have been directly or indirectly affected by the current crisis due to the lack of readily available money, particularly as banks tighten up eligibility requirements for loans. Cash flow issues are exerting pressure on companies regardless of whether they are large or small operations, or whether they are conducting domestic or international trade. As a result, more Greeks than ever are now seeking employment overseas. Arthur Baoustanos, director of trade at the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI), has observed an increasing number of Greeks recently arriving in Australia, typically on 457 working visas, in search of a better standard of living. His organisation aims to provide support for requests in assisting Greeks finding work in Australia. “HACCI tries to encourage and facilitate bilateral trade and links with organisations and people from Greece into Australia,” he says.“They work for multinationals that have a presence here in Australia,” says Baoustanos, noting that a combination of their professional skills and the crippling economic conditions back at home provided more than enough incentive to emigrate.However, a number of other migrants also fall into a second category. “There are others who have chosen to return to Australia who left Australia quite young and continued their lives in Greece, then when this whole financial crisis matter started to explode they decided to return to Australia,” Baoustanos continues.“When you’ve got a job and you’re earning some money and you know you can pay your rent, your food, and send your kids to school, you’re in a much better position than you would be in Greece without a job. So in that respect I think they see this as a welcome country. As soon as they land a job, they can set themselves up and go about their lives.” Another prominent enterprise that has been launched in an effort to assist struggling Greeks is The Hellenic Initiative, which aims to establish opportunities for students and young professionals through methods such as encouraging Australian companies of Greek origin to hire them for around six months. The ultimate goal is for them to gain experience which will place them in a better position in the job market, and ultimately enhance their career prospects. However, somewhat predictably, the argument has risen that Greek migrants seeking work in Australia are detrimental to the job prospects of local workers, even if the employment is only on a temporary basis. Baoustanos refutes this, and instead believes it is a chance to ensure Australia remains competitive. “It’s an opportunity to keep our skill sets up with the rest of the world,” he asserts. “Australia is not alone in this world, there are other countries, and everyone is playing a role in how this country is working. I don’t see it as a threat to anybody.”With a tough job market and an unstable economy back at home, Baoustanos understands the mindset of Greeks wishing to emigrate for the sake of stability. “During the global financial crisis, Australia weathered it quite well, it was a desirable place to be. I’m not saying making such a decision is easy, to just drop your whole life in one place and start somewhere else. But if the conditions are such, and they dictate that, you won’t have any trouble making that decision.” “This whole thing started because in Greece they would hear that Australia is a prosperous country, which it is and we know that. But everybody living in this country has worked hard to create that prosperity,” says Baoustanos, believing that newcomers should be given the opportunity to contribute to this prosperity as did those who came before them. “It hasn’t been easy for the majority of people coming to Australia because you have to start from scratch. A lot of these people are highly skilled and highly qualified people, but they haven’t managed to get jobs that reflect the level of skill they have. They end up doing odd jobs in order to survive.” As for the conditions faced by Greeks who remain, Baoustanos is blunt in his assessment. “Whatever the outcome is, the standard of living of Greek people has been affected already. It’ll be a few years before things can get back on track,” he believes. “In terms of whether or not Greece will leave the eurozone, that is being played out at the moment … no one wants Greece to leave the eurozone.” Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more