The Greek economy has been in turmoil for several years, since the economic downturn began. Greece has been more deeply affected by the financial crisis than any other country, due to its high levels of public spending and debt. Inflation soared as did unemployment as the economy collapsed. This has inevitably had an impact on expats looking to work in Athens or other parts of Greece.
In 2009 the national deficit in Greece was 15% of GDP, which was reduced to 4% of GDP by 2014 through the introduction of strict austerity measures. However, in Athens these measures triggered a series of public protests, some violent. This combined with a growth in crime figures appears to have had the effect of deterring some holidaymakers from traveling to Greece. The Greek economy relies heavily on tourism, with almost 20% of the country’s GDP coming from the tourist industry. Every year there are around 19 million foreign visitors to Greece, including more than 6 million visitors to Athens.
Prior to 2009 there had been hopes for significant growth in tourism, with future targets set as high as 40% of GDP. Since the economic collapse, the number of visitors from other European countries has fallen. Although there are visitors from other markets, for example there is now a higher proportion of visitors to Greece from countries such as Russia and China, the average daily spend per visitor has fallen since the crisis, just at the time when income from tourism is most needed.
Greece’s financial crisis has resulted in unemployment rising as high as 27%, so it is not surprising that there have been fewer positions for expats in recent years. However, there are still opportunities for expatriates in multinational corporations and in sectors such as tourism. There is a steady demand for English speakers with a relevant qualification for teaching English as a foreign language. Some jobs suitable for expats in Athens are advertised online on sites such as OverseasJobs and OnlineAthens.
Setting up a business in Athens has become more difficult since the recession, as local authorities will need to be convinced of the merits of the business and the positive impact it will have on the local economy. There is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with and you may have to pay a considerable deposit sum as proof of financial viability.
The ability to speak even a little Greek can make a big difference to the job opportunities accessible to you in Athens. If you don’t speak Greek at all, it is worth enrolling in a language school as well as immersing yourself as much as possible in local society in order to absorb some of the language.
If you are from outside the EU and seeking residence in Greece you will need to apply for a permit. This combined permit allows you to live and work in Athens or any other part of Greece. EU citizens need to register with the local authorities, but should not require a permit. If you need assistance with securing a permit, find a bilingual lawyer who can liaise with the relevant authorities on your behalf is always a good idea. We have also summed up some more relevant information on visas and permits in our article on Moving to Greece.