Greece Labor Market

Greece’s deep economic crisis has hit the labor market hard. In the fall of 2013, a record was reached with an unemployment rate of over 27 percent. Since then, more people have been employed, but still the country is among the countries in Europe that have the highest proportion of unemployed.

Unemployment in Greece had worsened as early as the 1990s, but peaked at 12 percent in 1999 and then declined somewhat until the great financial crisis of 2008-2009.

In January 2010, unemployment was about 10 percent. Two and a half years later, in August 2012, when many companies had shut down or cut down on business, unemployment had risen to 25.4 percent, and for young people aged 15-24, it was 58 percent. The figures, reported in November, were more than twice the average in the euro zone.

At the same time, notifications continued in both public and private businesses, and rationalizations within the public administration would lead to tens of thousands of fewer time-limited project positions.

Unemployment has been particularly high among young people and women. One reason why women find it difficult to find jobs is the lack of part-time services. However, the large black economy and the widespread double or seasonal work make it difficult to assess the real situation.

Reductions in the public sector have contributed to the high unemployment rate, as well as modernization and mechanization in agriculture as well as increased immigration. Immigrants should be covered by labor law, but many work black for significantly lower wages and with poorer conditions.

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Greece Population

About one in four employees are unionized. The trade union movement is independent and strikes are both allowed and common. The central organization GSEE represents about 700,000 employees, the majority in the public sector.

A minimum wage is set, but wages are low compared to the EU average. In 2012, a sharp reduction of the minimum wage by a full 22 percent was implemented. In 2019, the left government raised the minimum wage by 11 percent, from EUR 586 to EUR 650 per month.

Almost half of women of working age gain employment. Women’s average salary is three quarters of men’s. Working hours are regulated to 40 hours per week.



18.1 percent (2019)

Youth Unemployment

39.3 percent (2019)



Same-sex couples can register partnerships

Parliament allows registered partnerships for same-sex couples. The law regulates property and inheritance issues but does not give the right to adoption of children.

New law on “bad loans”

Parliament adopts a law that allows banks to sell “bad loans” (borrowed money that banks do not expect to get back) to private collectors; The law should strengthen the banks’ capital.

The operation of airports is sold out

The government signs a contract with the German company Fraport on the operation of 14 Greek airports. It is the largest privatization to date decided by the Syriza-led government. The contract gives the state EUR 1.2 billion.

Tight budget for 2016

Parliament barely adopts the government’s 2016 budget proposal.


Payment is made

The Eurozone finance ministers approve the payment of EUR 2 billion from the support package. In addition, EUR 10 billion in capital is granted to the Greek banks, after the four leading banks have managed to raise their total capital by over EUR 5 billion from private financiers.

The government is weakening somewhat

The government’s majority in Parliament declines when two members – one from Syriza and one from Independent Greeks – are excluded for refusing to vote, in accordance with the government’s line, for a law that allows unpaid apartments to be seized.

Government-critical strike

For the first time, a general strike is being carried out against the Syrian-led government’s austerity policy. About 20,000 people attend a demonstration in Athens.

Payout is withheld

Lenders hold a payment of EUR 2 billion from the support package. The reason is that they want to see that the government enforces laws that, among other things, allow confiscation of housing with overdue loans.


Crying lack of capital in the banks

A so-called stress test conducted by the ECB shows that the country’s four largest banks would not cope with a new major crisis. Recapitalization of the banks is one of the requirements for the third aid package and must be completed by the end of the year. An important reason for the banks’ lack of capital is that they have lent large sums to private individuals who are unlikely to ever be able to repay their debts.

The refugee stream reaches its peak

At the beginning of the month, around 7,000 refugees a day come to Greece, according to the International Migration Organization (IOM), but 70 percent of them now go directly to Macedonia.


Syriza forms a new government

Syriza also chooses this time to form a coalition government with the EU-critical right-wing Independent Greeks. Tsipras reinstates most ministers in the old government. For example, Evklidis Tsakalotos returns as Minister of Finance.

Syriza wins in the recent election

September 20

In the new parliamentary elections, Syriza will again be the largest party with 35 percent of the vote (145 seats), against 28 percent (75 seats) for New Democracy, which will be the second largest. Golden Dawn gets 7 percent (18 seats) and becomes the third largest party. Pasok gets 17 seats, Communist Party 15 seats, River gets 11 seats, Independent Greeks 10 seats and finally 9 seats go to Center Union. Popular unity, formed by an outbreak of Syriza, does not enter Parliament. Turnout is record low, 57 percent.

Greece appeals for help with the refugee crisis

During the first day of the month, almost 4,300 migrants are shipped from islands in the Aegean Sea to Athens, in order to be able to take the train through Europe. Poor Greece has a hard time managing the large refugee stream and is appealing to the EU for a comprehensive solution to the crisis.


Transitional government is formed

Since no party has succeeded in forming a new government, the president commands the Supreme Court President, Vasiliki Thanou, to temporarily lead the country. At the same time, the president announces new elections until September 20. Thanou, who is critical of austerity policy, becomes Greece’s first female head of government.

Syriza is shattered

The left-wing government party jumps off to form a new party, Folk Unity. With 25 members, it will be Parliament’s third largest party. It is headed by Panagiotis Lafazanis, who was dismissed as energy minister by Tsipras after refusing to support the government’s line.

The government is demanding a farewell

As soon as the new support package has been secured, the government submits its resignation application to President Pavlopoulos and asks him to announce new elections as soon as possible.

The first payment is made

After a series of national parliaments approved the aid package to Greece, the eurozone finance ministers make an immediate payment of EUR 23 billion.

The aid package is approved by the euro zone

The eurozone finance ministers approve the third aid package, of € 86 billion. The decision must also be adopted by a number of national parliaments. It is unclear whether the IMF backs the package, as the fund wants to see some form of debt relief for Greece, whose current debt burden it considers unreasonable.

Difficult to handle the refugee stream

During the month, an average of over 2,000 refugees come to Greece every day. Especially the islands of Kos and Lesbos receive many migrants. In Kos, where 100-500 people apply daily, 3,000 refugees in difficult conditions are waiting to be registered as asylum seekers. On several occasions, migrants clash with the island police.

The stock exchange reopened

August 3rd

The stock exchange in Athens opens after being closed for five weeks. Most shares fall steeply. The largest is the collapse of the banks, whose shares lose 30 percent in value.


Formal negotiations on support loans start

July 27

Formal negotiations begin between the government and representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a third aid package for debt-ridden Greece. The negotiations lead to increased fragmentation within Syriza, with several leading politicians in the left flank leaving the party.

Greece gets fast loans, banks open

Eurozone finance ministers are giving Greece a quick loan of just over EUR 7 billion for the country to meet its immediate expenses and open its banks. On July 20, the banks will open after being closed for three weeks, but the possibility of withdrawing money is still limited. The Greek government debt now amounts to about 170 percent of GDP.

The support package gets approved

Parliament approves the conditions for the new subsidy loan, but 32 of Syriza’s 149 members oppose the government and 6 Syriza members abstain. Tsipras dismisses a minister and two deputy ministers who voted no.

Tough loan terms

The terms for a new support package will be considerably tougher than those rejected by the government in June and which the voters said no to in the referendum. Tsipras is forced to agree that government assets of up to EUR 50 billion should be invested in a fund that the Greek government cannot control. Most of these assets should be used for debt repayments.

Ready for new negotiations

Eurozone heads of government give green light to start negotiations with Greece on a third rescue package, now worth € 86 billion. The EU estimates that the political turmoil of recent weeks has cost the Greek state EUR 25-30 billion.

Tsipras is charged with breach of promise

An hour before the deadline expires, the Greek delegation submits a new reform plan, in which the lenders meet on a number of points that the Greeks said no to in the referendum. Among the reforms are increased retirement age, increased VAT and a faster privatization plan. The proposals receive criticism from parts of Syriza, where Tsipras is accused of having failed his election promises. Parliament adopts the reform plan, but about ten Syriza members oppose the government or cast their votes.

Crisis meeting in Brussels

Eurozone finance ministers gather for a crisis meeting in Brussels, two days after the referendum. The Greek delegation comes to the meeting without new proposals for savings, after which it is given two days to submit a detailed list of new reforms.

Finance Minister Varoufakis resigns

Shortly after the referendum, controversial finance minister Varoufakis announces his departure – likely to facilitate continued negotiations with the other euro countries. Varoufaki’s often drastic word choices have irritated other countries’ ministers and can be said to have had a negative impact on the negotiating climate. Varoufakis is succeeded by Evklidis Tsakalotos, who since April played a central role in the Greek negotiation delegation.

The no-side wins the referendum

July 5

The Greeks firmly reject the loan requirements set by the IMF, the EU and the ECB. In a referendum, 61 percent of voters voted no, while 39 percent voted yes. The turnout is 62.5 percent. For many Greeks, this is a message to lenders that they no longer accept the austerity measures that have made every fourth Greek unemployed. The result arouses dismay in large parts of the euro zone.


Without support from the outside world

The Eurozone finance ministers do not extend the support program that expires at the end of the month. A direct consequence is that Greece – as the first European country to date – cannot repay an IMF loan.

The banks are temporarily closed

As a result of the collapse of the negotiations with the lenders – and the acute shortage of money it has led – the government decides that all Greek banks should be closed for six working days and that the residents may withdraw a maximum of 60 euros per day from the ATMs.

A referendum is announced on the loan requirements

Prime Minister Tsipras surprises all parties by announcing a referendum on the lenders’ requirements. He also says the government will advocate a “no” to the loan terms. The EU declares that the negotiations are now suspended and that the latest offers are withdrawn. Approves the planned referendum, to be held as early as 5 July;

“A humiliated nation”

June 26

Lenders EU, ECB and IMF offer Greece a five-month extension of the rescue program against the government agreeing to further reforms, which would drastically reduce the state’s costs. According to Prime Minister Tsipras, Greece is required to take measures which, he says, will humiliate an entire nation.


“No money in two weeks”

The government once again manages to make an amortization to the IMF at the last moment, but is forced to withdraw money from an emergency account to collect the required € 750 million. Eurozone finance ministers praise Greece for the progress made during the negotiations, but say more concrete savings measures are needed to make it more money. According to Finance Minister Varoufakis, Greece can stand completely without cash within two weeks.

The golden dawn trial is postponed again

May 7

The trial of 69 leading people within the right-wing party Golden Dawn is being updated again as a number of defendants do not appear in court.


ERT should be recreated

Parliament is voting to re-establish the public broadcasting company ERT, which was shut down for savings reasons by the previous government in 2013. The new ERT is expected to have 2,300 employees and funding will be through a license of three euros per month for each subscriber.

Failed negotiations

After a failed ministerial meeting in Riga, Prime Minister Tsipra makes changes to the Greek negotiating delegation and gives the disputed Finance Minister Varoufakis a more withdrawn role. The leader of the delegation will instead become Deputy Foreign Minister Evklidis Tsakalotos.

Businessman required billions

One of Greece’s leading entrepreneurs, Leonidas Bobolas, is arrested by police and ordered by a prosecutor to pay € 1.8 million to the state, equivalent to withholding tax. He promises to pay “as soon as possible”. According to a Swiss daily newspaper, Greek businessmen have at least EUR 1.4 billion in Swiss bank accounts. Negotiations are ongoing between the Greek and Swiss governments on how to manage these accounts.

Municipalities with several are required for money

The government orders all public institutions to hand over their financial reserves to the state, which needs three billion euros in the next two weeks to be able to pay salaries and social benefits, pay interest on debt and pay another debt to the IMF. The money must be deposited into a special account with the central bank. Representatives of the municipalities say that it is unreasonable to seize municipal funds and that this can lead to a number of activities such as schools and care paralyzed. Parliament approves the government decree.

Trial begins against Golden Dawn party peaks

April 20

A trial begins in Athens against 69 members of the right-wing party Golden Dawn. They are charged with membership in a criminal organization as well as for the murder of an anti-racist rapper and an immigrant as well as a series of assaults. Among the defendants are leader Nikos Michaloliakos and all 18 members of the party in the previous parliament. Several of the leading party representatives are absent from the initial court proceedings. The trial is expected to last for several months. The defendants risk up to 20 years in prison.

Greece pays off IMF debt

Greece fulfills the promises to the IMF and pays the debt of EUR 459 million on the due date.

Tsipra’s visit to Moscow raises concerns

Prime Minister Tsipras meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. There are fears within the EU that Putin will succeed in exploiting Greece’s economic crisis to strike a wedge in the Union and weaken EU countries’ consensus on the issue of sanctions on Russia. But Russia is said to have only offered Greece moral support and long-term cooperation – no money. Putin says Tsipras has not requested any financial support.

No war damages from Germany

Germany rejects a claim by the Greek government of over € 278 billion in war damages. The German government refers to a damages paid in 1960 and says that the agreement signed with the two German allies in connection with the country’s reunification in 1990 put a formal halt to World War II. Accordingly, no more claims for damages can be considered according to the German government.


Desperate pursuit of cash

In search of cash, the government raises just over EUR 600 million from government agencies, including health care, Athens metro companies, the state electricity plant and Athens water plant. In addition, EUR 300 million in agricultural aid from the EU is said to have been used to pay salaries for civil servants. It is uncertain whether the state has enough money to pay pensions and the salaries of civil servants in March.

The EU provides humanitarian aid

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offers Greece two billion euros to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. The money is taken from already allocated funds for development issues that have not come into use. Juncker emphasizes that the money does not go to the Greek treasury but to create growth and support Greek society.

Help the poorest

Parliament adopts a law to help those groups most affected by the economic cuts; The law gives the right to free electricity and food vouchers for the poorest. The State Treasury is now almost empty and Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble says that “time seems to run out” for Greece.


The government’s savings program gets approved

Eurozone finance ministers grant Greece a four-month extension of the aid program. The government is given two days to submit a list of the reforms to be implemented. In it, the government promises not to interrupt the privatization of state-owned enterprises and to include all new social support programs within the budget. A number of initiatives against tax evasion, smuggling and corruption are also promised. The reforms are, with some doubt, given the clear sign of the IMF, the European Commission, the ECB and the German Bundestag.

The government is forced to give way to the lenders

The government submits a formal application for a six-month extension of the support program and promises during this time to maintain a strict budget balance and to adopt new laws against tax breaks and corruption. The government is also forced to give up the opposition to the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF to continue monitoring how the country fulfills its commitments.

Pavlopoulos becomes new president

Parliament elects former Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos from New Democracy to New President. He is supported by 233 of the 300 members already in the first round of elections.

Negotiations end

Negotiations between Greece’s new government and other euro area countries on the terms of the aid package are stranded. Greece is given four days to submit an application for a six-month extension of the ongoing support program. Otherwise, the support will be canceled at the end of the month. The Greek government rejects the proposal as “unacceptable”.

The EU frantically for a new support program

In his first speech in Parliament after the election victory, Prime Minister Tsipras stuck to Syriza’s election promises to raise minimum wages and pensions, abolish property taxes and stop privatization of state-owned companies. He says no to the EU’s offer of more time for the ongoing aid program and instead demands a new financial aid so that Greece can manage until a completely new aid program has been negotiated. The message from the EU is dismissive.

“Agreement must be kept”

Prime Minister Tsipras and Finance Minister Varoufakis travel around Europe to seek support for their ideas on how Greece should emerge from the debt crisis – without hearing. The message is that signed agreements must be kept.


The government wants to renegotiate the entire rescue package

Tsipra’s government says it does not want the next payout of € 7.2 billion. Instead, it wants to renegotiate the entire support settlement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says there can be no new debt write-off for Greece beyond the billions that private lenders and banks have already written off.

Two sales are stopped

The new government stops a planned sale of 67 percent of the shares in the port of Piraeus and 30 percent of the shares in the country’s largest electricity company. Both privatizations are included in the agreement with the lenders.

The left and the right form a coalition

Syrias leader Alexis Tsipras is appointed government leader and immediately contacts the right-wing Independent Greeks, who agree to form a coalition government. The two parties are ideologically far from each other, but they are united in strong opposition to the tough borrowing conditions from the EU and the IMF. The 40-year-old Tsipras becomes the youngest Greek prime minister in 150 years. The new finance minister is appointed economist Gianis Varoufakis, known for his fierce opposition to the loan agreements with the EU and the IMF.

Clear rolling victory for Syriza

January 25

In the recent parliamentary elections, the radical left Syriza gets 36 percent of the vote and 149 out of 300 seats. Next largest is New Democracy with 28 percent (76 seats). Golden Dawn and the River each get 6 percent of the vote (17 seats each), followed by the Communist Party with 15 seats. Independent Greeks and Pasok each receive 13 seats.

Greece Labor Market