Greek Crisis Wiped Out Small Firms

ATHENS – A crushing economic crisis and harsh austerity measures have combined to destroy thousands of small-and-medium-sized enterprises in Greece, particularly in its cities.

Data from the country’s social security and health care fund IKA found that the number of businesses employing between one and five persons decreased from 206,615 in 2008 to 164,245 in 2013, a contraction that led to 66,531 job losses.

The report also found that 42.29 percent of private sector firms provided a mere 5.25 percent of total employment in the private sector.

The labor market records showed that the country’s 252 biggest employers provided work to one-quarter of the private sector’s total work force and that the dominance of big firms is growing quickly with the demise of “Mom and Pop” stores that couldn’t survive the effect of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings on its customers.

The information cuts into Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ touting that he’s created a “success story” and that the country is on the verge of a recovery despite still near-record unemployment and deep poverty with the loss of 940,000 jobs the last six years.

The coalition government is believed to be considering various incentives for employers, including tax-related bonuses, in exchange for new job hirings but Samaras reneged on a promise to introduce a plan to hire 75,000 young, for whom unemployment has been as high as 64 percent.