Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Do job candidates with Greek surnames have an advantage?

Getting a job in Greece is difficult enough for Greek job seekers with the predominance of cronyism, low salaries and rising unemployment amid recession. Do those with non-Greek surnames also face discrimination as early as the CV?

Ethnic discrimination is common worldwide. The International Labor Office found it in Belgium, Germany and Italy. It exists in countries considered progressive and gender balanced, such as Sweden where those who were older, unemployed or had an Arabic or other non-Nordic name received less contact; the UK, where racial prejudice in housing and the labour market was found as early as 1967; and the USA, where candidates with “black” sounding names and other minorities were eliminated from contention during résumé screening.

In a country where native Greek citizens are favored over repatriated Greek citizens from abroad, xenophobia is on the rise, unprovoked violence against persons of color happens daily and fascists now sit in Parliament, is it so hard to believe that ethnic profiling exists?

* Article last updated on January 2, 2013

Do Greek employers discriminate?

The only study on ethnic discrimination in the Greek labor market was done in 2006-2007 by Minas Vlassis and Nikos Drydakis, professors from the Department of Economics at the University of Crete.

In “Ethnic Discrimination in the Greek Labour Market: Occupational Access, Insurance Coverage, and Wage Offers,” CVs with equal education and experience, using addresses from comparable neighborhoods in Athens and similar hobbies and personal characteristics, were sent to the same firms at the same time. To homogenize characteristics by phone, a native Greek was used to answer calls for interviews and questions in both cases. The only difference was one candidate was named Ioannis Christou and the other Nikolai Dridanski.

Their findings revealed that Albanians face 43.5 percent net discrimination in access to employment, 36.5 percent lesser chance of being given IKA and a potential wage of 8.8 percent lower than Greeks, which is 5.3 percent below the legal minimum wage. When questioned directly, 84.4 percent of employers “put the blame” on profit strategies.

This corroborates a poll in which 88 percent of Greeks said they do not have a problem with immigrants in theory, but the same percentage believe they don’t deserve to be issued a work permit. In other words: I don’t mind if you clean my house, landscape my yard, build my house and boost the economy, but forget about getting a fair wage and having rights.

It also explains in part why only half of an estimated 1.2 million immigrants in Greece are legal, even though 70 percent have been here for 5 to 8 years and are entitled to long-term EU-wide residence/work permits. Continuous insurance coverage is required to secure a permit and, of those who managed to apply and pay 150 euros each last year, 300,000 are waiting in a seemingly eternal “pending” file, with thousands being encouraged to apply even though municipal employees know they are ineligible. Greece gets to keep their money no matter what. That’s more than 45 million euros in cash for those keeping track, and the funds are not being used by immigrants as few rarely utilize public services, according to the National Statistic Service (NSS).

Certainly, migrant joblessness is lower in comparison to unemployment amongst Greek citizens, but this is because immigrants do not live in a family home and cannot afford to be selective when and if a job is offered.

Important note

Please be clear. Greek employers that discriminate on first sight of names on a CV not only affects foreigners looking a job, but also those of Greek origin who do not use their Greek surname for reasons of marriage or personal choice.

Further, it is usually an indication of more discrimination to come.

* A future post will be a personal experience with discrimination based solely on my CV, an inadvertent experiment from 2003, and linked accordingly.

For related stories, see Jobs in Greece.

Special acknowledgment

Hat tip to MBE for providing direction to two sources and sharing a personal account.

Related Sources

Greeks increasingly xenophobic: 93 percent against immigrants but ‘not racist’” — Eleftherotypia
Native-Immigrants Wage Differentials and Occupational Segregation in the Greek Labour Market” – Michalis Demousis, Nicholas Giannakopoulos and Stavros Zografakis
Immigrants, Migration and Discrimination (Greece)” — Migration Citizenship Education
Migrant Integration Policy Index” (Greece)” — Sponsored by the EU, British Council
Ethnic Discrimination in the Greek Rental Market” — Nick Drydakis
“2007: Year of Immigration Reform” (link broken) — Athens News
“Mixed marriages and discrimination” (link broken) — Athens News
“Xenophobic, often racist attitudes of Greeks” (link broken) – Athens News
Greeks are xenophobic, insecure, TV-addicted…” — Stamos Zoulas


  graffic wrote @ February 1st, 2008 at 03:04

This comment will be better in the afternoon, with a coffee and in a cafeteria; but no coffee for me right now 😛

After almost 6 months working in Greece. My short and small experience has given me the following:
– Employers can take advantage of you and trick you.
– Some employers talk to you like they’re doing you a favour, when in fact the one who is saving their asses is you.
– Employers always lie about the job.
– There are no, or not so many, Greeks with good technical skills. (Where I work, we hired a guy with almost no knowledge in the area needed because nobody wanted to work for us, so he has been 1 month learning and of course being paid for it.
– I only know one good Greek manager. (or perhaps two).
– The guy with the leather seat for his office and wooden floor, doesn’t understand that employees are not part of the furniture of the company.
– Smokers in the office suck.
– Many Greek employers don’t understand that “working hard” is not “work 12 hours per day” and is instead “working without continuous coffee and cigarette breaks.”

Uf! is really late. Good night

  The Scorpion wrote @ February 1st, 2008 at 08:53

I know exactly what you mean. I outsmarted my Greek company I work for because on my CV I added an “OPOULOS” to the end of my name and no one caught it.

I hope one day they don’t figure out that I’m not really Greek.

  FMS wrote @ February 2nd, 2008 at 00:58

The -opoulos or -akis etc. strategy doesn’t work for a lot of English names:-) I think many people would die laughing if I tried it with mine!

  The Scorpion wrote @ February 2nd, 2008 at 15:04

Hey, wait “Martin-akis” Sounds like a brand of apple juice in the states. And Martin-opoulos sounds like a supermarket 😉

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