How Are Job Seekers Reacting to the Debt Crisis in Greece?

It will be years before we can measure the full effect of the current debt crisis in Greece. It’s not only troubling to European creditors and financial markets, but also to people searching for jobs in the country—and job seekers’ reactions to these recent events is one thing we can begin measuring today.

Job searches in Greece were down 36.6% as a share of overall job search traffic on Indeed in the first quarter of 2015 as compared to 2013, the year after Greece’s first debt scare almost led to an exit from the European Union. The 36.6% drop in job searches in Greece compares to a 52.5% increase in Germany and an 11.5% increase in the UK over the same time period.

In contrast to the declining share of searches within the country, the share of Greek job seekers looking for opportunity outside of Greece doubled in the days following the announcement of a referendum on the European Union’s proposed bailout package.

What does this mean in the short term?

We would expect that until the country emerges from this economic limbo, it seems likely that people who might otherwise be looking for jobs will stay on the sidelines. With unemployment running above 26% in Greece, many people who would like to work there are uncertain about the future of the country’s economy. This means they must either hold out for improved job opportunities in Greece or apply for work in other countries.

Job searches have declined by 36.6% as a share of overall searches on Indeed

We can see this uncertainty reflected in how people are searching for jobs in the last few months. An average of about 30% of all job searches originating in Greece are now directed abroad (with the UK, US, Germany, Switzerland and Canada being the top five destinations), up from an average of 15% registered in May.

Job seekers in Greece are searching for jobs in other countries

Beyond the short-term impact on Greek labor markets, there may also be long lasting effects in Greece and beyond. The UK is the top destination for Greek job searches, and the composition of searches coming from Greece to the UK suggests that highly skilled workers are some of the people most interested in leaving the country. Recent top job searches include high-skill job titles such as “Dentist,” “Civil Engineer” and “Graphic Designer” as well as keywords related to highly technical roles (such as “SQL” and “Oracle”).

Comparing the last nine weeks to the same period one year earlier also suggests a higher than usual presence of keywords and job titles related to specialized professional and technical positions. For example, “Finance,” “Economist,” “M&A Analyst,” “Graphic Designer,” “Implantologist” and “SQL/Database Developer” are all in the top 50 jobs people in Greece have searched for in the UK since May 1. Those same job searches were not as popular a year earlier, and together these results suggest the potential for long-term brain drain for the Greek economy as an additional consequence of this crisis.

Our analysis demonstrates that economic recovery for Greece will entail far more than repayment of debts. It also relies on creating conditions that will attract workers with the skills necessary to rebuild the Greek economy.