· Features

A postcard from...Greece

Our 'postcard from' series keeps you updated on key HR areas in different countries

Economic briefing

Greece’s economy is the 47th largest in the world and based on the service and industrial sectors. Tourism also makes up a large chunk; in 2013 18 million international tourists visited the country, making Greece the seventh most visited country in the EU and 16th in the world.

However, it has been hit by a severe recession; GDP per capita has fallen from 94% of the EU average in 2009 to 68% in 2015.

In July the Greek government sent a letter to the International Monetary Fund outlining commitments it promised to meet by June 2018. These include changes in labour laws and a plan to cap public sector work contracts.


Similarly to many European countries, the number of elderly people in Greece is increasing. The population census of 1961 found that 10.9% of the total population was over the age of 65, while the percentage increased to 19% in 2011.

Migrants now make up 25% of wage and salary earners. There is estimated to be a very high number of unauthorised immigrant workers in Greece, with the government believing there are 500,000 irregular migrants.

Legal lowdown

Work permits in Greece are usually employer-specific, occupation-specific, and location-specific, and are valid for a year. Non-EU nationals must obtain a visa if they are staying for more than 90 days, and may require a criminal background check. To be able to claim healthcare, pensions or benefits a resident must obtain a social insurance number known as an AMKA.

Britain has a double taxation agreement with Greece to ensure people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries.

“Employment law in the UK is noticeably more clear and constant with in-built flexibility, whereas the Greek system is in need of an overhaul to take into account the most recent standards and avoid the many different interpretations that each case can have,” reports Dimitris Tsouroplis, group head of HR at the Libra Group. “Greece is still a highly unionised country and this shows, often taking a disproportionate toll on the private sector.”

From the HR frontline

“There is a very noticeable long hours culture in Greece,” reports Tsouroplis. “The working day starts a little later and meetings frequently run long, but the challenge for HR is to manage unpaid overtime. This has been heightened during the financial crisis with climbing unemployment rates.

“Greece offers a very salutary lesson on talent management,” he adds. “High unemployment and relatively low career opportunity have caused many capable and skilled workers to seek a better future elsewhere. As Greece re-asserts itself that will hopefully change.”