“How much do you earn?” is a question that causes heartache in post-crisis Greece where a domino of bankruptcies have left behind a disaster zone of wage cuts and unemployment. As the balance of supply and demand topples in favor of employers, those seeking to hire recruits have easy pickings from a bevy of highly-educated candidates in desperate need of money.
As the living daylights are sucked from the market by Greece’s creditors to bail out troubled banks, a “black” cloud creeps over the Greek workforce, bringing its own untaxed drops of survival as Greeks do anything they can to make ends meet in a jungle economy where only the fittest and most conniving survive.
In all this craziness and exploitation, I turned to ordinary Greeks and asked them a very rude question: “How much do you earn?” And I told them how much I earned too. Then, we all had a good laugh together – crying at the same time!
It turns out that salaries in Greece are random and have little to do with education level or talent:
Greek doctors are the most sought after in the world, and do very well for themselves once they leave the country. In Greece, however, they are taken for granted with wages for young specialists ranging from 900-950 euros at best – hardly reflective of the years of education and effort required to train in this sector. A hospital supervisor in the state health system can expect around 1,100 euros per month or 1,300 euros after ten years of experience. A hospital director gets around 1,600 euros after 20 years of experience. Add to this a few “crumbs” for emergency shifts that give the doctor an extra four euros per hour (less than a port worker). There are even cases where doctors have been paid 2.9 euros per hour in casualty units. Furthermore, in the Greek health system a doctor can expect to work unpaid overtime. After years of education doing a job that requires knowledge and responsibility, doctors are truly undervalued and the only way for them to exploit their years of education and obvious worth is to open up their own clinic, migrate to another country (such as Saudi Arabia where doctors get 10,000 euros per month plus perks) or sell out on their morals by accepting fakelakia (envelopes stashed with money under the table).
A young lawyer who is freshly hired at a law firm can expect to be paid 600-700 euros per month at best. That’s just the starting point that can rise as the client list stacks up over the years. A solicitor gets a 20-euro standard fee for every contract and a fee proportionate to its value. Annual salaries range from as low as 15,000 euros, climbing to 40,000 euros.
Judges in Greece are among the lucky professions – mainly due to their ability to legally fight any move aimed at slashing their salaries. Hence, the basic wage of a Supreme Court judge remains at pre-crisis levels, ie. 4,134 euros per month, whereas a Supreme Court vice-president gets 3,721 euros, an Appeals Court judge gets 2,894 euros, judges in the court of first instance get from 1,654-2,894 euros and a D class magistrate gets 1,488 euros. Added to this rate are some special subsidies for library use that range from 344.08-688.16 euros per month according to the judge’s ranking. They even get compensation for staying in their seat (!) from 644-769 euros.
A novice priest clears 770-800 euros per month, however – after just a decade in the business – he could see his earnings at 1,032 euros per month. For a bishop, the early Sunday morning wake-ups are more worthwhile with the pickings at 1,750 euros per month, whereas an archbishop’s salary is at 2,213 euros. Of course, this amount doesn’t include all the perks priests receive for performing rites. During wedding ceremonies, it is customary for the best man to offer the priest 150 euros under the table. Then there are all those non-taxable blessings and prayers that can handsomely line a priest’s coffers, especially if there are a lot of senile elderly women in his parish or if he hangs around a cemetery for a bit of pocket money on the side through a prayer reading or memorial service cheap at the price of protecting a loved one’s soul.
The wages teachers get explain a lot about the quality of education that Greek kids are getting. The rate is 800 euros (gross) that comes to around 600 euros net for a private school in Kefalari that requires teachers to be at their post at 08:00 and finish at 16:00 (due to afternoon courses).
A teacher at an institute (frontistirion) may end up getting just 3 euros per hour and this rate could rise to 6-7 euros. In the private sector, a large number of teachers are dismissed during the summer months and customarily go on unemployment benefits before being rehired again in September.
The worst cases of teacher exploitation take place at the nursery level where teachers in the private sector are expected to clean, do bus rounds and teach for 500 euros per month. The rate for a privately-trained nursery assistant straight out of an IEK College is at 250 euros per month.
In the public sector, the situation is slightly better with a high school teacher with eight years worth of experience and masters getting up to 880 euros net per month. Teachers who travel to different schools in order to cover their working week may end up spending 100 euros per month on fuel that is not reimbursed.
With rates so low, many teachers rely on private lessons to make ends meet. You can find teachers getting anything for 7 euros until 30 euros per hour (in more affluent areas) for private lessons that bring warm, undeclared, untaxed cash directly to their pockets.
Forget Hollywood! In the land that gave birth to drama and showed the world the highest level of culture, actors’ salaries have been reduced to a tragedy. Though they have always negotiated their livelihood from season to season, jobs are hard to find now that television has cut back on home-grown series and people are barely making ends meet to even consider going to the theatre. With new productions reduced to a mere trickle, an actor working on TV can expect anything from 1,000 euros per month to 1,000 euros per episode whereas in the Nineties it was at least 5,000 euros per episode for an average cast member. This may sound good but it is actually scraps bearing in mind the effort required to breathe life into a role, the hours and conditions of the job, and the insecurity of a profession that doesn’t guarantee work every season. With TV jobs hard to find, most actors take to their beloved stage where the idea of a basic wage is a laughable concept. Truly a labour of love, most actors are promised a cut in the profits that translates to a miniscule amount. There are talented actors out there receiving three euros per performance while the average rate is around 20-30 euros per performance without insurance. If an actor breaks a leg, then the understudy is called in and the actor gets no compensation to show for the hours spent studying a part. So to put it bluntly, talent doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good income with most in the profession also doing a second job unrelated to the thespian art.
The golden days of journalism in Greece are well and truly over. These days young cadets at newspapers receive around 580 euros per month – and we’re not talking about regional rags but national papers of great prestige and high circulation. Someone with experience hired today can expect an insulting 700-800 euros per month and 1,000-1,500 euros if you play your cards right (whereas in the past 1,500 euros was an average amount). Sites are the worst offenders in terms of exploiting their journalists, bullying them to work unpaid overtime and to regurgitate propaganda. One site in particular pays its employees 400 euros per month for 40-hour working weeks (including weekends), without social security and unpaid vacation leave.
Undoubtedly, journalists who continue to work in this profession are either extremely passionate about what they do or masochists as they can expect to work round the clock with unpaid overtime and weekends as well as graveyard shifts for very little money in return.
In some cases, there are magazines where journalists don’t get paid with “money” but with freebies offered by those who would like a write-up. These journalists supposedly work to gain experience and in the hope that at some point down the line they will be hired. Freelancers in particular may cut receipts for money they never receive and end up not only unpaid but also paying taxes.
Meritocracy is put on the backburner and most jobs are “advertised” by word of mouth with nepotism being sky high. No wonder the level of journalism in Greece is laughable.
Salaries depend on the venue and the clientele. Athens waiters earn 30-55 euros per day and can expect to make an additional 15-30 euros depending on tips. Beyond the gateways of Athens, the rates fall, and a waiter in a region like Patra in the Peloponnese, is likely to receive 3 euros per hour for serving coffee in the morning, and, another, 25 euros per day for the same job in the afternoon. In most cases, labor is not declared with most waiters registered as part-time workers. Unpaid overtime is the norm.
The only bright spot is tipping, but the way in which it is shared out depends on the establishment. The majority of eateries place extra takings in a joint tip box and share them out evenly at the end of the week. In many cases, owners keep a portion of the tips for themselves.
10. Delivery drivers
There’s a reason why delivery people whiz dangerously by you in Greece. By rushing to deliver to as many households as possible, they hope to get more tips – an important portion of their salary bearing in mind that they are paid on average 4 euros per hour. Despite the obvious dangers of their work, they rarely receive social security and end up unpaid and without any health coverage if they should have an accident. In most cases, they are required to have their own motorbike to be hired for the job and they pay for the maintenance costs and fuel used during work.
A salesperson at a retail clothing or shoe store can expect to receive around 500-700 euros per month, around 600 euros for someone who may have three years of experience. Overtime is paid in bonus hours off taken at a later date rather than with actual money. Some stores give a bonus for items sold but these are becoming less as the situation deteriorates.
An apprentice hairdresser will get paid 1 euro per hour in the first year of work, and then three euros per hour until they graduate. The starting rate for a fully-fledged hair stylist is at 420 euros per month. For obvious reasons, most hairdressers prefer to go door-to-door where they can get 10 euros cash in the hand for offering someone a haircut. The Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) believes that 40 percent of hairdressers may be practising their profession in this way.
13. Live-in Carers
It is possible to tour the Balkans from the comfort of your own home by inviting these women to take care of your elderly parents or babysit for you. Bearing in mind the fact that the Greek state is lacking in social services of this type and the fact that they aren’t hired by wealthy entrepreneurs but by ordinary families also struggling to make ends meet themselves, the majority of these women work undeclared. There are offices exploiting their needs by connecting them to families that need their services for a fee of 280 euros or more for eight months payable by both the family and the women. Apparently these offices check out the records of the women so that they don’t send a psychopath to your house though you can never be too sure of this until after you go through the list and settle with one you actually like to hire as both an employee but also to make a member of your household (it’s amazing how quickly you may bond). As for the women themselves, they can get paid anything from 450-700 euros and this is money goes straight to their bank accounts without the additional cost of food, bills, single property ENFIA taxes and accommodation. Of course, they usually work without social security but most of these women don’t care as they aren’t in it for the long haul and dream of returning to their home countries at the earliest opportunity.
When the sacked cleaners outside the Finance Minister fought for their jobs, the nation was moved by their plight even though, if you look at the figures, they were in a much better financial condition than most Greeks. According to official data, the ministry’s cleaners working 3-hour shifts were getting paid 952 euros per month, 1,066 euros for 4-hour shifts and 1,455 euros for 5-hour shifts gross. A cleaner working with a company contracted to clean a public-sector department gets considerably less – around 250 euros for a 4-hour shift.
Most cleaners prefer going door-to-door with their services, charging around 30-40 euros per 6-hour shift.
A Greek parliamentary deputy receives a monthly rate of 5,705 euros (68,470 euros per annum. To organize their offices, they receive an additional 21,370 euros per annum flat rate (1,780 euros per month). Family subsidies are at 180,000 euros, 50 euros per month for each deputy. Transport funds are at 1,365,000 euros for all 300 deputies – 350-600 euros per month depending on the distance of each deputy from their regional area to Athens. While most of Greek society has to deal with unpaid overtime, parliamentary lawmakers also receive extra funds for attending summer sessions (750 euros) and a wide range of other perks.
Huffington Post’s Wage Chart: