When Cleaning Toilets in Sweden Is Better than Living in Greece

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Tilemachos Karachalios has gone from donning suits and selling pharmaceuticals for 17 years to scrubbing the sullied toilets of Swedish schoolchildren because of the economic malpractice in Greece. Sadly, compared with a 25-percent unemployment rate and miserable-sounding six-day work weeks proposed in his home country, he might have made the right decision.

Bloomberg's disheartening story on Karachalios today puts a face on the riches-to-rags tales that have become all too commonplace with Greece now in its fifth year of recession. "It was a very good job ... Now I clean Swedish shit," says Karachalios. "You can plan, you can organize, you can make plans for 10 years, 20 years, but you don’t know what life brings," he adds, while Bloomberg's Oliver Staley offers up this stark description depicting the physical toll of Karachalios's misfortune: 

An intense man with flecks of gray in his thinning black hair, Karachalios said he has lost 20 to 30 pounds since moving to Sweden. His hands are stained with grime. Instead of the suits and ties he once wore, he now dresses in jeans and work boots. His suits remain in Greece.

We've mentioned in the past how families in Greece have turned their homes and goods into illegal pawn shops, and that young people with advanced degrees and doctorates have desperately turned to manual labor, agriculture, and fishing to find jobs. "Greece is in its fifth year of recession, with the economy expected to contract 6.9 percent this year, the same as in 2011," writes Staley. A report from Reuters adds that the unemployment rate is very close to 25 percent, and that in June 1.2 million Greeks were without work—as CNN notes, more than half of the people under the age of 25 so affected. That's a massive amount of people unemployed (the entire Greek population is about 11 million).  Further, those lucky enough to find work in fields they might not necessarily like or have initially trained and been educated for, CNN reports, might be facing six-day work weeks: "Media reports in Greece and abroad say creditors are demanding the government extend the working week to six days, as a condition for releasing more funds as part of the country's second bailout." And, yeah, that's how you advertise a janitorial job, Sweden.

Photo by: sixninepixels, via Shutterstock.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.