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  • Rajat Bhatnagar

    It is really good to speak and hear Hindi from time to time. With InterNations I got to know compatriots in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Employment in Greece

At a Glance:

  • Tourism accounts for one fifth of the Greek economy, which is mostly based on the services sector.
  • There has been a hike in tax rates in Greece over the past four years
  • Greeks express themselves in a very emotional way, even in business situations. So don’t forget to read up on local business culture.

Over the past few years, Greece has been making headlines with its financial crisis. Tough and unpopular austerity measures have been implemented by the government, and the economy seems to be going slowly back on track. However, the unemployment rate is still extremely high at 24%.

So why is working in Greece still a viable option for expats? Actually, the Greek government is specifically targeting expats, especially investors and entrepreneurs willing to invest their capital in Greece’s economy. See the Moving to Greece article for more information on the financial crisis, and on expat opportunities in Greece.

Major Economic Sectors in Greece

Greece’s economy, along with that of many other developed countries, is becoming increasingly involved in the service sector, which represents an estimated 82.8% of Greece’s GDP. Greece is a major tourist destination, and projections for 2016 report 28 million international visitors will arrive in Greece this year, making tourism one of the main contributors to the service industry. Tourism accounts for about 18% of Greece’s GDP and employs one-fifth of the people working in Greece. However, although this industry is very much seasonal, measures, such as developing multilingual websites to promote the Greek experience, are being taken to develop it into a year-round affair.

The primary and secondary sectors account for a much smaller proportion of the GDP, amounting to 3.9% and 13.3%, respectively. Around 13% of the people working in Greece have jobs in the agricultural sector, which includes the large portion involved in the fishing industry. Sea aquaculture contributes an increasing amount to the nation’s annual GDP. The remaining people working in Greece are employed in the shipping industry or in the industrial sector, which is dominated by the textile and chemical industries as well as the manufacturing of metal products.

Finding a Job in Greece

The job market is currently in a bad state, and finding a job remains very difficult. Even though the economy is getting better, expats were also among the numerous people who lost their jobs. There were also news reports of expats leaving the country because of the ongoing crisis. Non-working expats with an income source independent from the Greek economy — especially retirees — are still advised to keep their savings in an international bank account and draw their regular income from outside of Greece.

If you do want to give working in Greece a try, though, the Greek government’s Manpower Employment Organization (OAED) issues an annual of regions and professional fields which have a lack of suitable candidates from Greece or the rest of the EU. You can search for employment openings in Greece through many channels, including online vacancy search engines, newspaper classified ads, and recruiting agencies.

Here is a selection of useful websites:

Alternatively, you can register your professional qualifications with an OAED job center, so that potential employers can find you. You can find out more about working in Greece on the OAED website.

Taxpayer Identification Number

After finding a job and relocating to Greece, you should then apply for a taxpayer identification number (AΦΜ, short for ΑριθμόςΦορολογικούΜητρώου), as you need this number to complete many other daily transactions in Greece such as opening a bank account and setting up your utilities.

You need to apply for your identification number at your local tax office. In addition to filling out Form M1, you also need to bring your passport. You should check with your local tax office to see if additional documents are required, such as your birth certificate, marriage certificate or visa.

Individual Taxes in Greece

Anyone who is in Greece for more than 183 days a year is subject to Greek income tax. Also, expatriates are only taxed on their income from Greek sources. Greece is currently cracking down on evaders, so if you’re working in Greece, it is important to submit your tax return on time by 30 June of each year. Tax laws passed in 2012, valid for all revenue earned as of 1 January, 2013, raised the rates, lowered the thresholds and limited deductions. They also decreased the number of tax brackets from eight to three. Earnings of up to 25,000 EUR are currently taxed at a rate of 22%. For those earning between 25,001 EUR and 42,000 EUR the rate is 32%, and anyone whose earnings exceed 42,000 EUR is taxed at 42%.

For freelancers and sole proprietors, their business income is taxed at a rate of 26% below 50,000 EUR, and a rate of 33% above 50,000 EUR of annual earnings.

Please note that due to the current crisis, new laws are frequently being implemented for those working in Greece. Please consult a tax advisor or the Ministry of Finance website for current and up-to-date information. In fact, in February 2016 the Minister of Finance, Euclid Tsakalotos, proposed to raise the personal income tax rate to 50% instead of 42%. So far, however, the proposition has not been voted into law.

Business Etiquette in Greece

Greek Business Culture

When meeting someone for the first time, shake hands firmly, smile and make eye contact. There is no formal ritual when it comes to exchanging business cards in Greece, although it is a good idea to have one side translated into Greek and present the business card with this side facing up.

It is important to dress in a professional and stylish manner, especially when meeting business associates for the first time, as great value is placed on first impressions. Colleagues often address each other on a first name basis, although it is best to let the other person make the first move, especially when they are older than you or hold a higher position in the company.

Doing Business in Greece

As Greek culture revolves around eating and drinking, business is often conducted over coffee or lunch. These meetings are an integral part of developing a successful business relationship. A moderate amount of small talk usually takes place before moving to the business aspect of a meeting. It is important not to rush this along, and allow your Greek business partner to decide when they are ready to get down to business.

Good topics for small talk include general questions about a person’s background, family and career. When doing business with a company for the first time, it is not unusual for it to take several meetings before business is discussed, as Greeks are generally cautious about who they do business with and want to develop a relationship of trust, getting to know a potential business partner before making any decisions.

Greek culture is one grounded in negotiation and haggling. Meetings will often become loud and chaotic, and passionate debate is encouraged. In business, and life in general, Greeks have a very emotional, almost theatrical, style of communication and will often use hand gestures for emphasis. You may have to be very assertive to get your point across. This lively communication style is usually good-natured, however, and should not be mistaken for aggressiveness.

Greek Labor Laws

The majority of Greek contracts are open-ended. The normal Greek work week comprises 40 hours. When you start a new job, the first two months are usually a probationary period, during which either party can terminate the employment contract without penalty. To terminate an open-ended contract, an employer has a prior-notice period of up to four months. The amount of severance indemnity has been determined at a maximum of 12 salaries for 16 years of work.

Employees earn 125% of their wage for the first five hours of additional work per week (known as “extra work”) and 150% for each additional hour thereafter (classed as “overtime”). The legal annual leave allowance is set at 20 days, increasing incrementally up to 26 days per year after 25 years of work. Greek companies also pay employees for six public holidays, including Christmas and New Year’s.

New mothers receive a total of 17 weeks of maternity leave, eight weeks before childbirth and nine weeks afterwards. If the mother works and does not take advantage of her legal entitlement to leave after the baby is born, than the father is entitled to take this period of leave. Additionally, for 30 months after returning to work, either the mother or the father may work one hour less per day without receiving a reduction in pay.

Social Security in Greece

As in many other European countries, social security contributions are mandatory in Greece. These contributions are deducted directly from your paycheck. Both employers and employees contribute a share to the social insurance system. These contributions help finance the healthcare system as well as other benefits, such as pension and unemployment benefits. The employee contribution is about 16% of one’s salary, while the employer pays about twice that amount.

The largest public social security organization in Greece is the Social Insurance Institute (IKA —ΊδρυμαΚοινωνικώνΑσφαλίσεων), which covers about 50% of the workforce. The second and third largest social insurance providers are OGA, which insures those employed in the agricultural sector, and OAEE, the insurance company for the self-employed.

Please visit the website of the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare (in Greek) for up-to-date information on any changes in the laws and regulations regarding the Greek social security system.

The pension system has been targeted by Greece’s creditors, and the IMF has asked for a ceiling of 3,000 EUR per month for retirement pensions. So far, this has not been put in place.

AMKA – Your Social Security Number

In order to take advantage of your social security benefits, you will need to apply for an AMKA (ΑριθμοςΜητρώουΚοινωνικής__Ασφάλισης), or social security, number. You can apply for this number at your nearest KEP (Citizens Service Center) or AMKA office. You will need to bring your passport and your certificate of familial situation (ΠιστοποιητικόΟικογενειακήςΚατάστασης) with you. This certificate verifies your family status and can be requested through the KEP.

If you already possess a similar document, it must be officially translated into Greek. A birth certificate must be submitted for dependent minors. You will then be issued an AMKA card. It is important not to confuse this number with your taxpayer identification number, as these are two separate numbers in Greece. See the AMKA website for further important information.

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  • Rajat Bhatnagar

    It is really good to speak and hear Hindi from time to time. With InterNations I got to know compatriots in Athens and Thessaloniki.

  • Amelie Barreau

    InterNations members are really helpful and provided us with valuable tips about the international schools in Athens.

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