With an unemployment rate over 25 percent, and most of those who do have jobs seemingly taking turns declaring anti-austerity general strikes, it would appear to the casual observer that almost nobody actually works in Greece.
Almost nobody, that is, except the prostitutes.
What’s commonly referred to as the “world’s oldest profession” is booming in the Mediterranean country, where most other industries have been ravaged by the global financial crisis since 2008. At least part of the growth is due to the sudden influx of unemployed people looking for alternative means of making a living, meaning many of the stories documenting the uptick in the number of sex workers are tinged with economic desperation.
There is, however, a lighter side to this story.
After facing a situation where it was “abandoned by almost everyone,” according to President Yiannis Batziolas, the cash-strapped Voukefalas amateur football club turned to a local bordello operator for financial assitance, becoming what is likely the only brothel-sponsored sports team in the world.
The team now wears pink practice jerseys with the logos of “Villa Erotica” and “Soula’s House of History,” the two houses of pleasure that are keeping the club out of financial ruin.
Prostitution is legal in Greece, where it operates under strict rules. And it is not unheard of for the industry to provide an economic bump to the country in times of need. In 2006, the government added economic activity related to prostitution to its GDP calculations, in a move to stave off European Union fines for running too-high debt-to-GDP ratios, according to Sky News. Earlier, when Athens hosted the Olympic Games of 2004, the city’s prostitutes’ union was seen as instrumental in creating a smooth-running plan for handling the influx of Olympic tourists.
Not all the news regarding the boom in Greek prostitution is positive, of course. A spike in the number of streetwalkers in blighted central Athens has been one of the issues extreme right-wing political groups have used to garner support among scandalized conservative citizens. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn political party, for example, emphasizes the fact that a large number of prostitutes are Eastern European immigrants to support its xenophobic platform.
Still, that has had little impact on the fact Greece’s ladies of the night are better off than the rest of their country.
Saying her business is doing better than almost any other in Greece at the moment, Soula Alevridou, the owner of the two establishments behind the recent soccer sponsorship scheme, told the Associated Press she was engaging in the marketing strategy for the love of the game.
Hers is “not the kind of business that needs promotion,” she said.
“I am a Greek woman, and I love my country,” she added. “If we don’t help our scientists and athletes, where will we be?”