Unemployment in Greece reached a new all-time record -- 22.5 percent in April, and may continue to edge higher as the debt-stricken country must endure years of economic austerity to reduce its massive deficit and pay back huge bailout loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
The jobless rate in Greece has jumped from a relatively “modest” figure of 16.2 percent from last April. Only Spain (where almost one-quarter of the adult population is jobless) has a higher unemployment rate in the EU.
Greece’s jobless rate is about double the average for the EU, while the unemployment rate among youths under 25 is an astounding 51.5 percent --- having doubled over the past three years.
The summer tourist season may only offer a brief respite from the brutal economic downturn.
Some temporary support may be provided over the summer months, especially from the tourism sector, Platon Monokroussos, an economist at Greece’s EFG Eurobank, told Reuters.
However, given the fact that the jobless rate is a lagging indicator of broader economic activity, unemployment may not have reached its peak yet.
As Greeks of all ages will likely seek to emigrate in search of jobs and opportunity, at least one major European country may shut its doors to them.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to do anything he can to prevent any potential influx of Greeks into the United Kingdom.
Echoing the sentiments of Home Secretary Theresa May – who warned in May that the UK would impose emergency immigration controls to keep Greek and other EU migrants out in the event the euro completely collapses – Cameron told the Commons Liaison Committee: “We obviously have contingency plans for all sorts of eventualities – that is the right thing to do for any government. The legal position is that if there are extraordinary stresses and strains it is possible to take action to restrict migratory flows, but obviously we hope that doesn't happen. “
Cameron added: I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our country safe, to keep our banking system strong, to keep our economy robust. At the end of the day as prime minister that is your foremost duty… You have to plan, you have to have contingencies, you have to be ready for anything with so much uncertainty in our world. But I hope these things do not become necessary.
The British Prime Minister’s fears were likely stoked by reports that many Greeks have been moving money out of Greek banks to British financial institution, in preparation of a doomsday for the euro currency. Typically, a massive transfer of money often leads to a physical migration to the destination country.
May was heavily criticized for her comments on immigration controls – some accused her of unnecessarily stoking ethnic tensions.
“And of course, if we ban every Greek from coming into Britain, the Greeks will ban every Brit from going into Greece – that's a great start to the holiday season, said Denis MacShane, the former Labour Europe minister
However, the legality of the UK border agency in keeping out Greeks is questionable. As a member of the EU, Greek citizens have every right to move, to work and to live in any other member of the 27-nation organization. (Only people from Bulgaria and Romania do not yet have this right).