Why should foreign governments and international funds spend hundreds of billions of euros in emergency aid to rescue Greece from ruin when — despite a youth unemployment rate topping 52 per cent — many young Greeks do not seem interested in working at all?
That is one of many riddles that the new Greek government must try to solve amid opprobrium and often downright anger from northern neighbours such as Germany, who very reluctantly have been helping Athens to pay its bills.
Tourism is Greece’s second most important industry after shipping. But it is almost all done of the backs of foreigners, not Greeks.
Employees at my hotel come from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Albania, Bangladesh and the Netherlands. Next door and just up the hill there are Albanians, Kosovar Albanians, Poles and Filipinos. Other than a half-Greek-half-Serbian hotel manager and two Greek waiters working at restaurants on the main pedestrian thoroughfare, none of these workers speak Greek well. Most of them do not speak Greek at all.
Employing so many foreign labourers at a time of deep economic crisis is something that frustrates and embarrasses some Greeks. That those jobs are filled by foreigners is an emotive, potentially explosive subject, since hundreds of thousands of outsiders have poured through Greece’s porous borders in the past few years.
A taxi driver on the island was not optimistic.
“They’d rather smoke a cigarette and watch television with their mothers,” he said dismissively.