For Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the tangible signs of Greece’s recovery are the tourists pouring into Athens from cruise ships and airplanes. Olympia Angeli says she’s lucky those tourists keep her employed.
The 28-year-old is clinging to the security of working as a waitress even as her wages have fallen by half in three years. Nor does she know when she can return to her studies in tourism management: She can’t afford to lose her 500-euro ($652) monthly take-home salary, needed to support her aging parents.
“A lot of people moved back home because of the crisis so their parents could support them,” she said in the historical neighborhood of Plaka at the foot of the Acropolis. “But I’m an only child and I never moved out. I support my parents, help pay the rent, help look after them.”
Not becoming one of the 1.3 million people out of work is an abiding concern for the 3.6 million Greeks still holding a job in the sixth year of the slump, now being called one of the deepest peacetime recessions of any industrialized economy. Gross domestic product has dropped 22 percent since 2008.
The ancient marble streets and squares of Athens, many now inhabited by beggars and once thronged by angry protesters, show the price citizens are paying for their leaders’ policy mistakes. Even as exports rise in Italy, Portugal and Spain and investment by U.S. companies returns to Ireland, Greece remains the poster child for the euro’s three-year existential struggle.