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Home » Countries » Europe » Greece

Global expansion is a step to make for any business, regardless of what you wish to achieve. The opportunities that can come with an expansion can be both incredibly exciting as well as intimidating and confusing, especially when you consider all of the registration procedures that needs to be done and documentation required.

Expanding to countries such as Greece – which is characterized by a highly educated and international workforce, multifaceted employment and tax laws, a robust infrastructure network linking to the rest of Europe, and leading sectors in agriculture, shipping and shipbuilding, tourism, mining, tobacco processing, textiles, chemicals, metal products, and petroleum – can bring both excitement to the possibilities, but also significant stress to ensuring the entity with the country’s rigorous legal structures and laws.

Ensuring compliance without the sufficient knowledge of the country’s laws also adds to the stress of getting your new entity off the ground and ready to test new markets. Going at it without the proper support can increase the costs, time and risks involved.

Each new markets bring new challenges, and these can be worked through more efficiently and cost-effectively with the support of an International Professional Employer Organization (PEO) such as Bradford Jacobs, especially through our Employer of Record (EOR) framework. This can be best utilized when businesses are just beginning their expansion process and require more information before committing to incorporating an entity and fully establishing themselves in that market.

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Greece – The Economy

The economy of Greece is the 53rd largest in the world, with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $222.770 billion per annum. In terms of purchasing power parity, Greece is the world’s 54th largest economy, at $378.693 billion per annum. As of 2020, Greece is the sixteenth-largest economy in the 27-member European Union. According to the International Monetary Fund’s figures for 2022, Greece’s GDP per capita is $20,940 at nominal value and $35,596 at purchasing power parity.

Greece is a developed country with an economy based on the service (80%) and industrial sectors (16%), with the agricultural sector contributing an estimated 4% of national economic output in 2017.

Important Greek industries include tourism and shipping. With 18 million international tourists in 2013, Greece was the 7th most visited country in the European Union and 16th in the world. The Greek Merchant Navy is the largest in the world, with Greek-owned vessels accounting for 15% of global deadweight tonnage as of 2013. The increased demand for international maritime transportation between Greece and Asia has resulted in unprecedented investment in the shipping industry.

The country is a significant agricultural producer within the EU. Greece has the largest economy in the Balkans and is an important regional investor.

Greece was the largest foreign investor in Albania in 2013, the third in Bulgaria, in the top-three in Romania and Serbia and the most important trading partner and largest foreign investor in North Macedonia. The Greek telecommunications company OTE has become a strong investor in certain former Yugoslav and other Balkan countries.

Greece is classified as an advanced, high-income economy, and was a founding member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). The country joined what is now the European Union in 1981.

Its economy is the largest in the Balkans, where it is an important regional investor. A founding member of the United Nations, Greece was the tenth member to join the European Communities (precursor to the European Union) and has been part of the Eurozone since 2001. It is also a member of numerous other international institutions, including the Council of Europe, NATO, the OECD, the WTO, and the OSCE.

Greece’s unique cultural heritage, large tourism industry, prominent shipping sector and geostrategic importance classify it as a middle power.

Small and Medium-Sized Companies

SMEs in Greece are the backbone of the country’s economy. SMEs play an important role in the ‘non-financial business economy’ of Greece. They generate 63.5% of total value added (EU average 56.4%) and an exceptionally high employment share of 87.9% (EU average 66.6%).

Greek SMEs employ an average of 2.6 people, about one third less than the EU average of 3.9.

The two most important SME sectors, wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing, together generate nearly half of all Greek SME value added. The average productivity of Greek SMEs, calculated as value added per person employed, is approximately €15,000, roughly two thirds lower than in the EU as a whole.

No. of States/Provinces13 “peripheries”
Principal CitiesAthens, Thessaloniki, Pátrai, Piraeus, Larissa, Peristeri, Heraklion, Kallithea, Acharnes, Kalamaria
Local CurrencyEuro
Major ReligionGreek Orthodoxy
Date Formatdd/mm/yyyy
Time ZoneEastern European Time (GMT+3)
Country Dial Code+30
Population10.33 million
Border CountriesAlbania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Republic of Macedonia (land borders); Cyprus, Egypt, Italy, and Libya (maritime borders).
Tax YearJanuary 1st – December 31st
VAT %24%
Minimum Wage€663.00 per month
Taxpayer Identification NumbersTax Identification Number (AFM)
VAT Number
Business Registration Number
Leading Sectorsshipping and shipbuilding, tourism, food and tobacco processing, textiles, chemicals, metal products, mining, and petroleum
Main importsCrude Petroleum, Refined Petroleum, Packaged Medicaments, Nitrogen Heterocyclic Compounds, and Cars
Main exportsRefined Petroleum, Packaged Medicaments, Aluminum Plating, Computers, and Non-fillet Fresh Fish
Main trading partnersItaly, Germany, France, Cyprus, Bulgaria, China, and the Netherlands
Government TypeUnitary parliamentary republic
Current Prime MinisterKaterina Sakellaropoulou (President), Kyriakos Mitsotakis (Prime Minister)

The Main Sectors of the Greek Economy

Greece focuses on the following key sectors, which all have a significant impact on the country’s economy:

  1. Agriculture – Greece is a major agricultural producer in the European Union, and the sector employs about 528,000 people or approximately 12% of the workforce in the country. Agriculture in the country accounts for about 3.6% of the GDP valued at about $16 billion. The majority of the immigrants in the country are employed within the agriculture industry.

    Agriculture in Greece is characterized by a small size and family hold units, and the cooperative organization in the country has remained relatively low for several years. The country produces different varieties of crops and different types of livestock products.

    Currently, agriculture in the country is heavily subsidized through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

    The country is a world leader in olive production with 2,232,412 metric tons, olive oil production with 344,615 tons, fig production with 50,368 metric tons. The country also produces 8,000 tons of pistachios, 229,500 tons of rice, 44,000 tons of almonds, 1.4 million tons of tomatoes, 578,000 tons of watermelons, and 22,000 tons of tobacco.
  2. Tourism – Tourism in the country plays a critical role in the economy, and it is one of the most crucial industries in Greece accounting for about 25% of the country’s GDP. Tourism in Greece has a long history although it started flourishing after the 1950s when the tourist arrivals were recorded at 33,000 in 1950 and went up to stand at 11.4 million in 1994.

    In 2018, the country attracted more than 24 million tourists and the figures in 2017 were 22.1 million, while in 2015 the figures stood at 21 million visitors. These figures indicate that Greece is one of the most visited nations in Europe on the world at large. Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the country is responsible for the overall tourism management, while the Greek National Tourism Organization is responsible for promoting tourism in the country.

    The country has been one of the leading tourism destinations in Europe dating back to antiquity because of its rich history and culture which is partly seen in the 18 different UNESCO World Heritage sites. The country has numerous islands, with estimates between 1,200 and 6,000. Some of the popular tourist destinations in the country include the country’s capital city of Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Rhodes, Chalkidiki, and Crete, among others.

    The government of Greece has in the recent past focused on promoting religious tourism, particularly in areas of the significant historical religious present like the monasteries in Mount Athos and Meteora.
  3. Manufacturing – The manufacturing sector in Greece, despite its smaller share in the economy compared to the European average, still plays a major role and has a considerable impact, both in terms of economic output and social cohesion, due to strong multiplier effects.

    The overall impact of the manufacturing sector on the country’s GDP exceeds €55 billion (31%). Employment in manufacturing also contributes to 31.3 % of total employment in Greece. Manufacturing is one of the largest employers in the country, after trade and agriculture and roughly at the same level as hotels and restaurants (ELSTAT, 2nd quarter 2015).
  4. Mining – Mining of different minerals in Greece has a long history and dates back to about 1000 BCE. Despite the long history of minerals in the country, the industry has contributed very little to the economy of Greece. Some of the minerals found in Greece include zinc, lead lignite, magnesite, bauxite, and petroleum.

    As of 2015, the country was the 7th leading exporter of pumice in the world, and by far the world’s largest producer of perlite. Greece produces approximately 1% of the total bauxite in the world and about 9% of all the bentonite produced in the world.

    The mining industry in the country processes the produced mineral fuels, metals, industrial minerals. The mining industry in Greece is harmonized by the mining code, which stipulates several regulations and laws on the extraction of ornamental rocks and industrial minerals. The code also states the safety and health factors for various quarrying and mining

Compliance Highlights

  • Tax Administration in Greece – a competency of the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance is divided into separate General Directorates (such as Administrative Support, Taxation, Tax Audits, State Property, Customs and Special Duties, Financial Inspection, Budget & Payroll, etc.). In the lower level of tax administration are the local tax offices and local customs offices.
  • Internal Revenue Offices – Greece is divided into administrative areas, with each of them operating one or more tax offices known as “D.O.Y”. For the taxation of each individual, the competent tax office for the receipt, processing and clearance of tax returns is the tax office of their area of residence. For the taxation of sole traders and professionals, the competent tax office is the office of the area where they exercise their business/profession.

    For individuals residing abroad, there is a special tax office in Athens.
  • The Labor Inspectorate Body (S.E.P.E) – Its role is to enforce labor legislation in the private and public sectors, to protect the legal rights of the employees and to secure the health, safety and welfare of workers in Greece. The S.EP.E reports directly to the Minister of Employment and Social Protection and is under the supervision of a Special Secretary, appointed by the Government.

Labor Contracts Law

In Greece, written employment contracts are not common practice. However, under the Labor Code (Presidential Decree 156/1994), employers must notify their employers of the material terms of the contract in writing.

This applies to both indefinite and fixed term contracts, as well as working relationships of a duration exceeding 1 month. This information must be provided for the employee no later than 2 months after they started work, in one of the following ways (chosen by the employer):

  1. In an employment contract
  2. In another document

The material terms that must be included in one of these documents are as follows:

  • Details of the contracting parties (employer and employee)
  • Place at which work is to be performed, the registered office of the company or the home address of the employer
  • The employee’s post and grade or employment category, and their work duties
  • The date of the commencement of the employment contract and its duration (if fixed term)
  • Paid leave entitlements (duration, time, manner)
  • Compensation payable and notice requirements in the event of contract termination
  • All forms of earnings to which the employee is entitled to
  • Employee’s daily and weekly working hours
  • Applicable collective agreement which establishes the employee’s minimum terms of wage and employment.

Failure to provide the employee with one of these documents results in a fine but does not invalidate the employment contract.

Payroll – Tax Contributions and Benefits

Income Tax: Any individual earning an income in Greece must pay local taxes, regardless of their residential status. Permanent residents are also taxed on any income received from outside the country.

Individuals must file their taxes annually – the payment deadline is June 30th of the following year. Filing tax returns is normally done online via the national tax portal (IAPR). For income tax return filing (single or joint), it is mandatory for a taxpayer to obtain a Greek tax registration number (also known as an AFM number).

Health and Social Insurance: The Unified Social Security Agency (EFKA) administers retirement, sickness, industrial injury, unemployment, and maternity, as well as the national health insurance system. EFKA coverage generally begins on the first days of employment.

Employers are required to pay EFKA contributions (including those with-held) by the last business day of the month. Failure to do so or filing late or incorrectly subjects employers to fines of 10-50% of monthly contributions.

EFKA contributions are divided between the employer and the employee: employers contribute about 26% of the employee’s gross salary, and the employee contributes about 16%. EFKA contributions includes:

Sick Pay: Greek workers are entitled to 50% of normal pay for the first three days of illness, which is paid by the employer. If an employee is sick for more than three days, the Greek Social Insurance System (IKA) takes over and pays the rest.

Leave: Paid leave allowance in Greece increases according to length of an employee’s service. Employees working five-day weeks are entitled to 20 days in their first year and receive additional days after a certain number of years has been reached. The highest entitlement for an employee is 25 days, with at least ten years of service.

However, leave allowances are increased pro-rata for employees who work six days a week.

Public Holidays: Employees are also entitled to paid leave for national public holidays, which are announced every year.

Employees required to work on a holiday are entitled to daily wages, and a 75% bonus. Public holidays falling on a weekend are not celebrated on another day.

Maternity & Paternity Leave: For maternity leave, an employee is entitled to 17 weeks – eight before the birth and nine after it – which is paid at 100% of their salary. After this, however, a six-month period of special leave may be taken, which is paid at the national minimum wage. Both maternity and special leave are funded by the Greek Social Insurance System (IKA) and the Manpower Employment Organization (OAED).


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