(I was on a short holiday in Greece and couldn’t resist making a story.)
They earn some €30 a day, Greek youngsters working in tourism during the summer. While their country is going through hard economic times, they are happy they found a summer job. ‘Without this work, I wouldn’t be able to go to university’, says Chris (18). A story from the beaches of Greece.
Their luck is that beach bars and restaurants, souvenir shops and other businesses in tourism usually employ the same people every year. So they don’t have to fight to get a new job every season, but just hope they can work for the same boss again. Chris Kovras (18) was lucky indeed: he’s been working for the third summer now, five to six days a week, for a cafe right on the beach in the tourist town of Eressos on the island of Lesbos.
‘I have no choice but to work all summer, because without it I can’t go to university’, says Chris. ‘My parents work in tourism too, they have their own business but it’s not doing so well now. If I didn’t have a job, it would be very hard to continue my studies.’
He walks back and forth to the bar and the kitchen with drinks and snacks, the outdoor seating is full. He loves the island he grew up on, but he’s not sure if he will be living there in a couple of years’ time. Chris: ‘I’m going to do a technical course, and I’m supposed to finish that in four years. But I don’t think the Greek economy will be doing much better by then, and finding a job sure won’t be easy.’ He is considering drastic measures: ‘I have an uncle in Canada. If things get really difficult after my graduation, I might go to him and find a job there.’
Areti Trentou (16) works down the coastal road in a clothing and jewellery shop. She works every morning, her sister every afternoon. Her parents own the shop. ‘We all have to contribute to make enough money’, Areti says. ‘It is nice work, we sell nice stuff and you get to meet a lot of people. So no, I really don’t mind working every day.’
Her afternoons are free, and she usually spends them with her friends. ‘I earn €15 every morning. So I can go have a drink in the afternoon, and I try to save up part of the money.’
On Chios, an island to the south, Marialena Leodi (18) is working on the beach. She too works in a family business: her uncle owns the place. She earns €60 to €90 a week, working two or three days. ”Two cousins of mine work here the other days. Like that, the whole family can profit a bit from my uncle’s business”, she says.
It’s her first job. And no, the family doesn’t need her to work. ‘My parents work in mastic, that’s a tree that is unique for Chios. The liquid from the tree can be used for all kinds of purposes, for example in medical applications. They still earn enough money from that.’ Marialena works purely for her own target: a driving license.
Marialena will go to university after the summer to study economics. And even though that sounds smart in a country that isn’t doing so well economically, she’s not at all sure to find a job after graduating. ‘But I don’t really worry about it’, she says. ‘We will cross that bridge when we get there. You know, on the islands, the economy is not that bad yet, especially in summer. People in the big cities, like Athens, have a much harder time.’
Areti doesn’t worry much either. At least not about ‘later’. She does worry a bit about now. Because at home she notices that her parents don’t make as much money as in previous seasons. ‘I’ve been working here since I was 14, and there are fewer tourists now. At home I see it too, we have less money. We do have enough to eat, but there’s no money for extras. That is another reason why I like to earn some money for myself. If I manage to save up a bit for the winter, then I won’t have to ask my parents for money if I need anything. That would be nice.’