Nearly a half million Greek citizens, a large portion of which are young adults and skilled professionals, reportedly emigrated from Greece over the course of a decade of economic depression and three consecutive memorandum bailouts.
According to available figures, however, out of roughly 467,000 Greek citizens that emigrated during that period, some 275,000 returned.
Other European countries attracted most of the expats, although far-off permanent immigration destinations of previous decades, such as North America and Australia, saw a resurgent number of Greeks join extended family and friends.
Nevertheless, with Greece facing a demographic crisis and, by all accounts, a shortage of skilled professionals in some cutting-edge sectors – such as programmers in specific languages and other IT specialists – the emphasis now is for the pro-market and pro-reform Mitsotakis government to unveil a package of substantive incentives to lure back “crisis-emigres” and even experienced Greeks that left in previous years.
Recently, Greece’s finance minister unveiled a series of tax breaks for returning expatriates, although the latter are judged as insufficient, in themselves, to create conditions for a mass return.
According to a top ministry official who spoke to “OT”, the ministry will follow with more incentives to repatriate young Greeks.
The same source said that after the end of the pandemic, and a hoped for robust economic recovery, the goal is for 20 percent of those that emigrated during the previous decade due to the economic crisis – and who have not returned – to repatriate.
An initial, albeit necessary first step came in 2019, after the July general election, with a law (4646) that allows for an alternative form of taxation of incomes derived overseas by new taxpayers to the country who make a significant investment in Greece.
In 2020, another law (4714) expands this regime to beneficiaries of social security payments allocated by other countries who transfer their tax base to Greece.
Still yet another law (4758) offers tax incentives to foreign professionals – with one popular term of late referring to “digital nomads” – as well as expatriate Greeks to work from Greece, regardless of whether their employment and production is based abroad.
Moreover, last month’s announcement of tax breaks and reductions in social security contributions, including another partial suspension of the vilified “solidarity” tax” for private sector wage-earners – one of the more ominous taxes heaped upon Greece’s middle classes by the previous leftist SYRIZA government – firmly placed Greece back on the global “map” of progressives economies who reduce tax burdens for businesses and professionals.
Profile of ‘brain drain’ immigrants
According to a study by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), 467,765 Greek citizens departed the country between 2008-2017 to seek employment opportunities abroad. Of this group, nearly 193,000 have not returned – a figure corresponding to 1.9 percent of Greece’s average population between 2008-2017.
The study, completed just before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, shows that most “crisis-emigres” are university educated and possess job skills in demand.
More than half of this group, 51.4 percent, are between the ages of 25 and 44, amongst the most active portions of the population.