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The fundamental role of the state has marked the regulation of labour relations in Greece for a number of decades now. The long tradition of state interventionism has put its mark on the labour relations system, the structure of collective bargaining and the functioning of trade unionism. An official legal-administrative system for the regulation of labour relations has been created, within which trade-union activities and attitudes develop. For decades industrial relations have been of a conflictive nature. However, since the early '90s, there have been signs of a curtailment of state intervention and strengthening of the role of agreements between national employer and employee organisations. The strengthening of the role of the latter is the result of tendencies growing in the wake of the country's return to solid parliamentary democracy in 1974 and the rise of the socialist party to power in 1981.
The framework of labour relations in Greece is defined by the structural characteristics of the national economy and labour market. Greece is a small open economy whose sectorial structural articulation has been fast changing over the past few decades. Agriculture and manufacturing are retreating in favour of the services sector. The sectorial distribution of employment is changing in an analogous manner. In the mid-nineties (1995), 20.4% of the labour force was employed in agriculture, 23.2% in manufacturing, and 56.4% in the services sector. The transformation of the Greek economy to a service economy has been accompanied by the reproduction, in a new guise, of a fixed characteristic of the Greek labour market. The high percentage of self-employment remains undiminished despite the shrinkage of the agricultural sector, where high percentages of self-employment are to be observed. The percentage of self-employed in the labour force was 33.8% in 1995, 36% in 1985 and 37.7% in 1977. Out of those who were self-employed in 1995, 6.4% were also employers themselves, employing additional personnel, while the remaining 27.3% were self-employed without additional personnel. The labour force also includes the 12.4% who are unpaid helping members of family-owned businesses. Thus, only 53.9% of the labour force are salary and wage earners and consequently these form the potential basis of trade unionism in Greece. In former decades the percentage of wage earners within the labour force was lower than 50%, and only in the late '80s did it exceed the 50% mark.
Another important aspect of the labour market that shapes Greek trade unionism is to do with the sectorial distribution of salary and wage earners. Out of the 53.9% of the labour force who fall under this
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category, the majority (20.7%) are employed in various services, including public administration, defense, and social security (7.1%), education (5.2%), and health services (3.7%). High concentrations of the total share of salary and wage earners are also to be found in manufacturing (10.4%), trade (6.5%), transportation (4.7%), construction (4.1%), the tourist industry - hotels and restaurants - (2.8%), and banking (2.3%). Finally, the structure of enterprises and the average number of employees per enterprise is yet another determinant of the foundations of labour relations in Greece. The Greek economy is one of small enterprises. In 1994, out of a total of 457,153 enterprises, a mere 968 employed more than 100 people.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Mai 2000