Labour market information

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Greece - National Level

Short overview of the labour market


According to the available seasonally adjusted data, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in terms of volume was decreased by 0.7% in Q4 2019 compared to Q3 2019, while compared to Q4 2018 it was increased by 1%. In general, the Greek economy in 2019 maintained its growth pattern, recording a growth rate of 1.9% , while the corresponding rate in the Eurozone slowed to 1.2%.

During Q4 2019:

  • There were 3 901 379 people in employment and the number of jobseekers was 786 416.
  • The unemployment rate stood at 16.8%, compared to 16.4% in the previous quarter (Q3 2019) and 18.7% in the same quarter of the previous year (Q4 2018). That said, the unemployment rate in Greece remains the highest in the EU.
  • Employment decreased by 1.8% compared to the previous quarter and increased by 1.8% compared to the same quarter of the previous year.
  • The number of unemployed persons increased by 1.2% compared to the previous quarter and decreased by 10.7% compared to the same quarter of the previous year.

The unemployment rate is highest among women, persons aged 15 to 19 years, in Western Greece and among people who have attended only a few years of elementary school. The highest employment rates are recorded in men, aged 30 to 44 years, in Crete, among people who have completed post-secondary education and among foreign nationals.

Most of the employed are salaried employees (68.2%), and a large number are self-employed without staff (21.3%). Compared with the previous quarter, there was a drop in salaried employees and an increase in self-employed with staff and assistants in family enterprises, while the opposite is the case with regard to the previous year. The part-time employment rate is 9.5%, while the temporary employment rate is 8.4%. Part-time employment increased compared to the previous quarter (+2.5%) and much more compared to the same quarter of the previous year (+4.5%). Temporary employment decreased (-14.6%) compared to the previous quarter and increased significantly (+21.0%) compared to the same quarter of the previous year.

Most of the employed are employees in the services and sales sectors (23.8%), and professionals (19.1%). In comparison with the previous quarter, the highest decrease appears among office staff, and the highest increase appears among senior management and management. Compared with the same quarter last year, the largest increase was in office employees and the largest decrease in specialised farmers, livestock farmers, foresters and fishermen.

The largest percentage of the employed (47.2%) declared that they worked for 40-47 hours a week, and a large percentage (25.9%) declared that they worked for 48 or more hours a week. Most of the employed (85.4%) declared that they worked the normal working hours, while 9.7% declared that they wished to work longer hours. A rate of 1.9% state that they have a second job, while 2.2% are looking for a job although working.

According to the 2011 census, the population of Greece is approximately 10.8 million. It is estimated that there were over one million foreign immigrants working in Greece before the crisis. However, after a few years, foreign workers and their families started to leave due to the slump in the labour market and in particular in the building industry. The latest official figures show that over the five-year recession (2009-2013), 33% of jobs held by foreigners were lost. According to ELSTAT figures from 2014, there were 708 054 immigrants residing legally in Greece, 75-80% of whom are believed to be economically active.

Furthermore, during the last few years Greece has been particularly hard hit by the refugee crisis due to its geographical situation on the route most frequently used by refugees. According to European Commission estimates, a large wave of refugees entered the EU illegally, and a great many of them used Greece as a point of entry. This places a heavy burden on the Greek economy and adversely affects tourism on the Greek islands. At the height of the refugee crisis, illegal migrants also entered Greece, many of whom have moved to other EU countries. According to the Hellenic Police Force's data, there were 123 710 foreigners arrested by the police and the port authorities for illegal entry and stay in 2019 compared with 93 367 in 2018. As regards the country of origin of these illegal immigrants, the largest number were from Afghanistan (32 497), followed by those from Syria (21 395), Pakistan (10 481), Albania (10 203), Iraq (8 418) and Turkey (8 017). There are also illegal foreigners from Iran, Bangladesh, Palestine, Somalia and Algeria. The EU has helped to deal with this issue through funding both through the EU and beyond by providing humanitarian and developmental aid. The exacerbation of the refugee - migration issue together with the Covid-19 pandemic are the two biggest threats which are testing the economy and society in Greece, placing new challenges just as it was so close to exiting the economic crisis, which has plagued the country, and the subsequent achievement of a positive growth rate. As such, a slowdown in economic growth is expected in 2020, which is not easy to quantify given the ever-evolving pandemic.

Immigration legislation, as codified by Law 4251/2014, lays down the conditions for employing foreign workers lawfully and protects their employment and insurance rights. The objective is to integrate migrants into the labour force smoothly on the basis of lawful employment and to open up positive prospects both for them and for the Greek economy, and Greek society in general.

Labour mobility in Greece is limited compared to other European countries. This is due to the exceptionally high rate of home ownership (80%) and to social and cultural factors in which immediate and wider family connections play an important role and constitute an informal but exceptionally strong network of social protection. It is also due to the fact that the unemployment rate is higher among foreigners living in Greece than among Greek nationals.

Most businesses (over 80%) are small in terms of turnover (up to EUR 150 000). The figure for the average number of jobs provided per business also points to the predominance of small businesses: over 85% of businesses have no more than five employees.


Text last edited on: 07/2020