In 1999, the labor force was estimated at about 4.2 million people. Between 1970 and 2000, the estimated proportion of the labor force in agriculture declined from 56% to 20%, while the proportion of the workforce in manufacturing climbed to 21% and services rose from 24% to 59%. Unemployment was 10.3% in 2002, compared with 2.4% in 1980 and almost 20% in 1991.
In 2002, 650,000 workers, or about 26% of the labor force, belonged to unions. Altogether, there were over 4,000 trade unions. Unions are organized on a territorial rather than a plant basis: all workers of a certain trade in a town usually belong to one union. On a nationwide scale, union members of the same trade or profession form a federation; the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) is the central core of the private sector union movement. Government plays an important role in labormanagement relations. Collective bargaining and the right to strike are protected by law, although workers must give notice of an intent to strike (4 days for public utilities, 24 hours in the private sector). Because of a history of compulsory arbitration as a means to resolve labor disputes, unions successfully lobbied for new legislation passed in 1992, which restricts the use of compulsory arbitration in favor of mediation procedures.
The maximum legal workweek is 40 hours in the private sector and 37.5 hours in the public sector. As of 2002, the minimum monthly salary negotiated by the GSEE was $19.50 per day or $435.50 per month. This amount provides a decent standard of living for a family. Annual vacations (of up to a month) with pay are provided by law, and in general, employment of children under the age of 15 is prohibited. Industrial health and safety standards are set by law and regularly enforced.