Greek commerce has entered a transformation phase, in the sense mainly of the enlargement of big corporations and the gradual shrinking of small businesses; this is an effect of the decade-long financial crisis and is set to be accelerated by the changes the pandemic has brought about in consumer habits, such as the soaring of online commerce and possibly the resurgence of inflation.
These developments are recorded in the data on the sector’s employment, with commerce accounting for 17.9% of all employees in the Greek economy. The figures show a reduction in the number of the self-employed – who in fact have very small enterprises without employing any staff – and an increase in employers.
At the same time there has been a reduction in the number of salary workers, but the average number of employees per company is expanding, illustrating a drop in the number of enterprises in the commerce sector, with those that stay in business growing bigger.
The manpower data the Hellenic Statistical Authority released for the second quarter of 2021 showed the number of employers in the commerce sector amounted to 93,375, up from 80,230 in 2020 and 78,633 in 2019. This is the biggest number of employers Greece has seen since 2009 – i.e. the start of the financial crisis. In 2008 and 2009, employers had risen above the 100,000 level, before companies started folding in the first half of the last decade.
The self-employed have been in constant decline since 2005: From 225,660 then, they dropped below 200,000 in 2010 and last year numbered 141,395.
The number of salary workers, which had fallen below 400,000 in 2011 due to business closures, started recovering as of 2017 to peak at 450,765 in 2020, mainly thanks to the numerous hirings by supermarkets in their effort to handle demand during the lockdowns. Salary workers numbered 432,114 last year.
Concentration in the sector is evident in the ICAP CRIF data, too, with medium-sized and large companies seeing employment grow to 44 staff in 2020, compared to 42.4 in 2019.