Greeks - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Under the Ottomans, most Greeks were peasants or craftsmen. At the end of this period, however, a few shippers and merchants rose to power and wealth by mediating between the expanding Capitalist economies of western Europe and the Ottomans. After independence, Greece entered a fully "marketized" economy from a largely dependent position. Feudal estates were replaced by small family-farming operations. While an elite class continued, their wealth did not foster national Economic development. Greece remains at the bottom of European Community economic indicators. Subsistence agriculture of grain, olives, and vines has given way to cash cropping of these and other produce such as cotton, tobacco, and fresh fruits. The difficulties inherent in farming on mountainous terrain have led many to seek urban or foreign employment. By 1990, less than one-third of the Greek population were farmers.

Industrial Arts. Greece is one of the least industrialized European nations. While carpentry, metalworking, and similar shops exist in all Greek towns, other industry is heavily concentrated in Athens, Thessaloniki, and a few other cities. Work is often organized along family lines, and in 1990, 85 percent of Greek manufacturing units had less than ten employees. The most important industries are food, beverage, and tobacco processing, with textile, clothing, metallurgical, chemical, and shipbuilding operations following.

Trade. At independence, Greeks exported currants and other produce to northern Europe, importing metal goods, coffee, sugar, grain, and dried fish in return. While trade has since increased greatly, it remains heavily weighted against Greece and toward its current trading partners—Germany, Italy, France, the United States, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Greece now exports textiles, tobacco, produce, ores, cement, and chemicals while importing food, oil, cars, electronic items, and other consumer goods. Partially offsetting this unfavorable balance are receipts from shipping and tourism and remittances from Greeks abroad. Greece initiated Membership in the European Community in 1962, becoming a full member in 1981.

Division of Labor. Despite the importance of women's productive work in farming, household maintenance, and familial businesses, wage labor outside the family has been male-dominated until recently. At present, many Greek women work for wages only until they marry, and only 30 percent of wage earners are women. Of the total labor force in 1990, less than 29 percent were in agriculture, about 30 percent in manufacturing, and the rest in the service sector. Emigration to find work abroad has generally kept Greek unemployment rates under 5 percent.

Land Tenure. At independence, prime agricultural lands were controlled by Turkish (and a few Greek) overlords and by Hellenic Orthodox monasteries. The new government established a series of land reforms, whereby large estates were distributed to poor and landless peasants during the nineteenth century. The practice of bilateral partible inheritance has since led to considerable farm fragmentation, whereby familial holdings average 3 hectares scattered in several different plots.

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