The occupational structure of Greece has changed in the 20th century because of increased industrialization and urbanization. Since the 1960s, the number of rural workers has dropped considerably. Overall, the employment numbers reflect various sectors' contribution to the GDP, with most Greeks employed in the service sector (59.2 percent) and lesser numbers in industry (21 percent) and agriculture (19.8 percent), according to 1998 estimates in the 2000 CIA World Factbook . Greece's total labor force numbered 4.32 million in 1999, when unemployment was estimated at 9.9 percent.
Generally, more men work in the industry sector while women dominate the service and agriculture industries. Greek women tend to have higher unemployment rates than men and are on average paid less. For additional income many Greeks work in seasonal or nonpermanent agricultural or service industry positions. For example, a craftsman may also work at a tourist site during the summer. Public-sector employees may often take a second job in the evening. Second jobs often complicate the way employment and unemployment figures are measured within the various sectors of the Greek economy.
In the Greek workforce, labor unions have been active throughout the 20th century. But unions have been subject to legal restrictions by successive Greek governments who considered unions a threat to domestic economic stability. Organization is centered on a particular trade or craft within a community. Local chapters are generally affiliated with national federations, which in turn are organized under the umbrella of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE).
The GSEE was founded in 1918 and is one of the oldest trade unions. However, the Greek public does not hold the GSEE and the Supreme Civil Servants' Administrative Committee (ADEDI) in high regard. Public hostility is also aimed toward the white-collar Association of Greek Industrialists, although they improved their public image considerably in the 1990s.
While not popular with the Greek people or government, trade unions can yield considerable political power. For example, when the New Democracy administration was in office in 1992, labor unions staged strikes following the privatization of the Urban Transportation Company, putting the government on the defensive. However, the GSEE has been instrumental in establishing pay increases and other labor benefits, which have benefited the country as a whole.
One of the by-products of industrialization in Greece was the development of an underground economy , which includes unreported economic activities that are not subject to taxation. Given Greece's large service sector, there are a number of retail and small family businesses that are unregulated and untaxed by the government, and it is difficult to track the number of unpaid family members working in these businesses. Estimates of the Greek underground economy are at 50 to 60 percent of the officially reported economy, meaning that income and employment figures in Greece are actually significantly higher than the official estimates. While this unofficial sector provides employment and income to many that would otherwise be jobless, it undermines the modernization of the country's fiscal system and the development of an internationally competitive Greek economy.