Young Greek voters facing a bleak future were largely behind the 'no' vote on Sunday. Will their vote pay off?

Lydia Anestopoulou

Greeks resoundingly voted "no" in their referendum on Sunday, a result driven largely by young people facing poor prospects and growing tired of living with austerity.


The current unemployment rate for Greeks under 25 is close to 50 percent, compared to around 20 percent for the European Union on average.

"Believing that I will find a job is like believing in a miracle. Most of people around my age are jobless," said Stavros Dimou, who is now 28, and hasn't had a job since he finished high school. He voted "no" to new austerity measures on Sunday.

The vote was split along generational lines, the Guardian reported, with 67 percent of 18-24 year olds voting "no," compared to just 37 percent of older voters. Overall, 61 percent of voters rejected a new austerity plan in exchange for bailout funds from European creditors.

Dimou said he's not really sure whether things will change now, but felt that more austerity measures were not a viable option. "I just try to be optimistic, and I knew that if Greece accepted the deal, things would become worse for sure," he told Fusion.


In the short term, the vote will delay the re-opening of banks in Greece, which are on a holiday because they no longer have the funds to operate like normal, according to Nicholas Economides, professor of economics at NYU's Stern School of Business.

"The banks have closed, the economic activity has screeched to a halt…On top of the large numbers of already unemployed people, the acuteness of the crisis of this week which was precipitated by the referendum is creating additional unemployment," he said, adding that Greeks can expect more unemployment down the road.


But according to Jan Svejnar, Professor of Global Political Economy and Director of Columbia University's Center on Global Economic Governance, Greece's young voters may have been right to have voted they way they did. Because a remaining, central question is whether Greece will stick with the Euro or revert to the drachma, the country's currency of antiquity.

Like Economides, he said that in the coming weeks and months, Greeks can expect worse conditions, but he thinks that ultimately, the best prospect might be for Greece to stop using the Euro. With their own currency, he said, Greece could make its exports and tourism less expensive and more attractive, potentially generating more jobs. "At that point the impact on youth unemployment should be considerable in the sense that new opportunities will emerge and that's where I think in the medium-term the Greeks will be better off," he said.


Economides, meanwhile, believes leaving the Euro would mean Greeks losing large amounts of savings because the new currency would be worth less than their savings in Euros. "If Greece goes to the drachma out of the Euro, from one day to the next in a couple of weeks people are going to lose half their wealth…so people are going to become much poorer very quickly," he said.

He said when imports become more expensive, the average Greek person will be able to buy less, leaving them in a weaker financial position."That's why every effort should be made from the Greek side at least to stay in the Euro," he said. "I'm worried that this unemployment rate is going to skyrocket to really high numbers if Greece gets out of the Euro because the economy is going to contract a lot."


Lydia Anestopoulou, 17-years-old and going into her last year of high school in the north of Greece, sees the vote as a signal of young Greeks taking control of their own future.

"I feel like the vote will indeed have the biggest influence on the Greek youth as the solution to the debt bailout will come after many years," she said. "My generation is the one that will undergo the consequences of wrong long-term programmes, during studying, during pursuing a career, during surviving."


She's hopeful that leaving austerity measures behind will eventually lead to a Greece that's better off–one in which she can pursue a career in music and theatre.

Anestopolou doesn't really believe that Greece will be forced to leave the European Union, even if it stops using the Euro as currency.


As Svejnar explains, the complicated prospect of Greece leaving the EU—or just leaving behind the Euro—is the next step for the EU to consider.

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