Greeks abandon their plows for tills, computers

Greece is gradually evolving into a service-based economy, according to new statistics on the country’s employment trends published in Sunday’s Kathimerini. This is particularly evident in the agricultural sector, which has shrunk by nearly half over the last decade. The figures, provided by the National Statistics Service (NSS), show that some 4.33 million people were employed in Greece during the second quarter of 2004, a rise of 16.5 percent over the same period in 1993. It appears the majority of those added to the work force in those 11 years, as well as those already working, have opted to become employees in the service sector rather than start their own businesses or work in industry. In a telling sign of this changing trend, according to NSS statistics, whereas in 1993 the economic sector in which most Greeks were engaged was farming, in 2004 shop assistants constituted the biggest single group of workers. The agricultural sector seems to have suffered the biggest drain during this period, going from employing around a fifth of the work force to just over a tenth today. The turnaround has been put down mainly to some farmers retiring, others being left unemployed and others still deciding to change careers. A frequent concern of farmers over the past few years is the lack of new blood entering the sector, with many young people from farming communities choosing to follow alternative careers such as tourism. Despite the drop, Eurostat figures show that the percentage of Greeks working in agriculture is more than three times the EU average. The textile industry has also suffered dramatically between 1993 and 2004, shedding some 55 percent of its work force during that time, as companies either closed down after being unable to compete with cheaper imports or moved to neighboring countries where overheads were cheaper. However, employment in the services sector, including salespeople, estate agents and bankers, has more than doubled during the last 11 years. It has proved a particularly popular avenue for women looking for work; 184 percent more of them are employed in services now than in 1993. The tendency to be employed rather than self-employed is also evident, as only 1.6 percent more people are now working in jobs they created themselves, compared to 1993, whereas the figure for those that are staff members in a business has risen by almost 40 percent. Another sector that has traditionally employed a sizable chunk of the Greek work force, family businesses, has also shrunk in size and currently provides work for some 275,000 people, 39 percent less than in 1993. The number of people employed in the public sector, however, seems to have remained impervious to change over the last decade. Around one in six Greek workers is currently employed as a civil servant (some 670,000 people in total), less than a third of whom hold a university degree.