More jobs but less employment security in retail sector

A report by the National Confederation of Greek Traders presents an analysis of the main features of employment in the wholesale and retail trade sector. Although the sector remains attractive for working women and young people, the research reveals that the number of permanent jobs among young employees has declined in 2007, compared with the previous year. This is mainly due to an increase in the number of temporary employment positions.

In April 2008, the National Confederation of Greek Traders (Εθνική Συνομοσπονδία Ελληνικού Εμπορίου, ESEE) presented the Annual report on Greek wholesale and retail trade for 2007 (in Greek). The report contains a chapter describing structural developments and the main features of employment in the wholesale and retail trade sector compared with the previous year and with reference to the period 1993–2007. The contents of this chapter are based mainly on two sources: a compilation of data contained in the Labour Force Survey (LFS) conducted by the National Statistical Service of Greece (Εθνική Στατιστική Υπηρεσία Ελλάδας, ESYE) for the years 1993–2007 and data from the ICAP databank – the ICAP Group offers business information, management consultancy, market research and a range of other services to companies.

High employment rate

Throughout the period 1993–2007, commerce has been the most rapidly developing sector in terms of employment, as the other two major employment sectors of agriculture and manufacturing have been recording a significant decrease in the number of persons employed. Between 1993 and 2007, employment in the commerce sector increased by more than a third. More than a quarter of the jobs created in the economy as a whole between 1993 and 2007 were in the commerce sector.

Structure of employment

A number of main features regarding employment in the wholesale and retail trade sector can be identified.

The commerce sector has a high concentration of women among its workers: the overall proportion of women employed in the sector amounted to 42% in 2007, compared with 39% for the economy as a whole. Commerce is the most important source of work for young people aged 15–24 years; 24.5% of employees under 25 years of age are employed in this sector.

Moreover, the sector is characterised by the traditional domination of small-sized businesses, with between one and 10 employees, and sole traders (Table 1).

Table 1: Commerce sector employment, by occupational status and company size, 2007 (%)
  Up to 10 employees 11–19 employees 20–49 employees More than 50 employees Unknown more than 10 employees Total
Employers 91.4 3.3 1.6 0.3 3.4 100
Self-employed 99.6 0.2 - - 0.1 100
Employees 57.7 15.3 8.3 8.2 10.6 100
Assistant members 98.8 1.2 - - - 100

Note: Some of the data in the tables may add up to slightly more or less than 100% due to rounding of figures.

Source: ESYE, LFS, 2nd quarter 2007

Despite these features, over the last number of years, the commerce sector has been undergoing a stage of transformation, resulting in a decrease in the proportion of sole traders and assisting family members and an increase in employee participation (Table 2).

Table 2: Distribution of employees in commerce sector, by occupational status, 1993, 2006 and 2007 (%)
  1993 2006 2007
Employers 11.2 12 11.9
Self-employed without employees 38.8 27.8 27.6
Employees 38.4 52.3 52.4
Assisting family members 11.6 8 8
Total 100 100 100

Source: ESYE, LFS, 2nd quarter 2007

Mobility is a notable characteristic of the sector, given that 47% of employees are employed in their current job for less than five years and 73% for less than 10 years. The corresponding percentages for workers employed in the remaining sectors of the economy, except the agricultural sector, are 37% and 60% respectively.

The proportion of employees working part time in the commerce sector (5.8%) is slightly higher than the respective share for the entire economy (4.7%). Part-time employment among women in the sector represents 8.9% of the total number of women employed; this proportion amounts to only 1.7% for men.

In relation to young employees aged 15–29 years, in 2007 the number of salaried jobs and permanent jobs in particular declined compared with 2006, while the number of temporary employment positions increased. For instance, compared with 2006, in 2007 salaried employment of young people aged 15–29 years decreased by 3,160 persons. This reduction is due to a decline in permanent employment, as the number of young people taking up temporary employment increased by 3,740 persons.


During the period 1993–2007, commerce emerged as the main sector of employment. This was mainly due to the fact that employment rates decreased significantly in agriculture and manufacturing. The commerce sector is characterised by the traditional predominance of small enterprises and sole traders. However, it is clear that the sector is undergoing a phase of transformation, where self-employment and the participation of assisting family members are declining. Wholesale and retail trade is an attractive sector for working women and young people aged 15–24 years. As far as young employees aged 15–29 years are concerned, in 2007 a decrease has been recorded in the number of salaried jobs and permanent jobs in particular compared with the previous year, as the number of temporary employment positions has increased.

Sofia Lampousaki, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)

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