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Foreign Immigration and Economic Development in Greece

Author: GABRIELLA LAZARIDIS
Published in IJED, Vol. 5 No. 2

A country may benefit from foreign immigration because of the increased unavailability of cheap labor, but encounter problems from xenophobia and social unrest. The end result depends on demographic characteristics, qualifications and immigrant skills and the capacity of the host country to absorb foreign labour and benefit from it.

Migrants in Greece comprise about 9% of the population and 12-13% of the labour force. Their influx occurred in a relatively short time, the overwhelming majority entered Greece illegally but after two regularisations, one in 1998 and another one in 2001, about 700,000 have been granted a legal status. Their average age is considerably lower that that of the rapidly aging national population, in hundreds of primary schools their children make up over 10% of the total school population and in some over 30%. About 8 out of 10 are economic immigrants but to a very small extent does their labour appear to substitute for national labour; for many jobs in construction, agriculture, tourism and domestic service their labour tends to become indispensable and as their depended younger family members who joint them come to age they form a continuous flow of young foreign entrants into the labour force.

This paper investigates the main facets of the economic and social development in Greece and benefits and costs of the influx of large numbers of migrants since the late-1980s for the Greek economy and society. The emergence of xenophobia and racisms and the impact of discrimination on migrants’ inclusion into the host country will also be looked at, alongside policy responses.

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