Know Your Diaspora: Filipinos in Greece

The Filipino community in Greece celebrated the 115th Anniversary of Philippine Independence last June 23, 2013 at the Fokianos National Gymnasium in Zappieo, Athens.  (Source:

There were 6,465 Filipinos in Greece as of January 1, 2006, according to the Greek National Statistical Service. Of these, 5,616 held valid residence permits and 5,115 were IKA (Greek social security) members. In addition, there are an estimated 40,000 Filipino seafarers on board Greek-owned or managed ships.

Of the land-based Filipinos, 5,046 (78.1 percent) were women. Filipinos are among the most highly educated foreign workers in Greece. Almost two-thirds (63.7 percent) are university or college graduates, including 0.4 percent with masters or doctorates. About 13.35 percent more have completed high school, with some having a few years of college education.

Of Filipinos working in Greece, 2.2 percent are in industry, 1.1 percent in agriculture, 0.7 percent in construction, 8.3 percent in trade and tourism and the rest (87.7 percent) in other occupations (household service, etc.). Of the Filipinos holding residence permits, 4,007 (71.3 percent) reside in Athens.

Filipinos constitute only 0.93 percent of Greece’s predominantly European foreign population. They are still the largest from East and Southeast Asia, and 11th among all foreign nationals.

Many Filipino workers may have entered and worked in Greece mostly as domestic helpers. In the 1998 Greek legalization program, 5,383 Filipinos applied for and obtained residence permits to shed off their irregular status. (The program was renewed in 2001 and 2004, but with fewer applicants).

At the end of 2006, there were 5,616 Filipino holders of valid permits, an increase of 233 over eight years (since 1998) or about 29 a year, which is slightly higher than the number of contracts processed yearly at the POEA. This indicates that the number of Filipinos with regular status has not increased significantly over the years.

The Philippines has so far been able to meet the demand of Greek ships for sailors, especially from cargo ships and tankers under Greek flag where Filipinos now comprise three-fourths of the foreign crew.

Their legal status enabled the Filipinos to visit the home country. From 1998 to 2007 there were 16,851 OECs (“exit passes”) issued, an average of 1,685 a year. This means the average Filipino goes on vacation once every three or four years.

In 2004, a total of 5,605 Filipinos registered as overseas absentee voters, and 4,673 actually cast their votes. In 2007, the registered voters rose to 5,908 and 1,837 voted. In both elections, the votes cast in Greece ranked second in Europe and tenth in the world, outside the Philippines. In 2006 and 2007, a total of 2,602 Filipino workers paid voluntary OWWA membership as a pre-requisite for the OEC. From 2005 to 2007, a total of 1,877 also became Pag-IBIG members.

Domestic service offers the best pay and the most transparently legal status for Filipino workers. Other jobs taken by Filipinos in less significant numbers are in the offices of foreign (so-called Law 89) companies and pleasure yachts. The foreign companies are actually Greek companies registered or incorporated in foreign countries.

Filipinos in Greece, therefore hope that Greece enlarges the annual quota of foreign workers, especially for domestic servants to enable more Filipinos–mostly relatives, town mates or friends of those already in the country–to come to Greece in the legal fashion.

Filipino seafarers register to vote through the Philippine Embassy's "Akyat Barko" program. (Source:


The estimates of the number of Filipino seafarers aboard ships owned or managed by Greeks have ranged from 5,000 to 60,000. The Philippine Embassy reported the first number in its 2005 Report to Congress. The second is the upper end of the range (40,000-60,000) volunteered by Interorient, the largest employer of Filipino seafarers in Greece. The POLO considers 40,000 as the most reasonable estimate.

On board Greek-owned ships flying foreign flags, Filipino crewmembers almost matched the number of Greek seafarers and even outnumbered them aboard tankers and passenger ships. There were 1,225 (19.4 percent) Greek crewmembers, 1,115 Filipinos (17.6 percent), 671 Indians (10.6 percent), 411 (6.5 percent) Hondurans, 388 (6.1 percent) Indonesians and 2,514 (39.8 percent) other nationalities.

Of the total 30,920 seafarers employed, 17,897 (57.9 percent) were Greek, 6,492 (21.1 percent) Filipino, 780 (2.5 percent) Indian, 594 (1.9 percent) Honduran, 496 (1.6) Ukrainian, 494 (1.6 percent) Indonesian, 113 (0.4 percent) Pakistani and 4,054 (13.1 percent) others.

All told, Filipino seafarers have a fair share of the crew in the Greek fleet. They make up about half of foreign seafarers in the entire fleet, more than one-fifth of the crew in the higher-paying Greek flagged ships, more than one-third of the Greek flagged ships mostly open to foreign seafarers (cargo ships and tankers), and three-fourths of all foreign seafarers in Greek cargo ships and tankers. Altogether, they beat their closest rival in Greece, the Indians, by more than 8 to 1.

Greek owners say that the factors that induce them to hire Filipinos were education, training, efficiency and loyalty.

The shipping industry is characterized by a shortage of officers and a glut of ratings.

Greek ship owners have complained about the difficulty of recruiting marine officers, even from the Philippines. The more enterprising owners, like Tsakos, have maintained scholarships for maritime courses in the Philippines–at $300 a month per student--and have been rewarded with a modest supply of well-trained and loyal officers. Yet the problem apparently remains. Some crewing agents, like Thenamaris, observed that the requirements for an officer’s license in the Philippines may have risen too high and have helped little in redressing the scarcity of officers.

The situation of ratings is different. The Philippines has so far been able to meet the demand of Greek ships for sailors, especially from cargo ships and tankers under Greek flag where Filipinos now comprise three-fourths of the foreign crew. For other ships, the Greeks have access to other nationalities.

Modern History

Greece achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it gradually added neighboring islands and territories, most with Greek-speaking populations.

In World War II, Greece was first invaded by Italy (1940) and subsequently occupied by Germany (1941-44) ; fighting endured in a protracted civil war between supporters of the king and other anti-Communist and Communist rebels. Following the latter's defeat in 1949, Greece joined NATO in 1952.

Filipinas taking up Greek language classes in Heraklion, Crete. (Source:

In 1967, a group of military officers seized power, establishing a military dictatorship that suspended many political liberties and forced the king to flee the country. In 1974, democratic elections and a referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy.

In 1981, Greece joined the EC (now the EU) ; it became the 12th member of the European Economic and Monetary Union in 2001. In 2010, the prospect of a Greek default on its euro-denominated debt created severe strains within the EMU and raised the question of whether a member country might voluntarily leave the common currency or be removed.


Greece has a capitalist economy with a public sector accounting for about 40 percent of GDP and with per capita GDP about two-thirds that of the leading euro-zone economies. Tourism provides 15 percent of GDP. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the work force, mainly in agricultural and unskilled jobs.

Greece is a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 3.3 percent of annual GDP. The Greek economy grew by nearly 4 percent per year between 2003 and 2007, due partly to infrastructural spending related to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and in part to an increased availability of credit, which has sustained record levels of consumer spending. But the economy went into recession in 2009 as a result of the world financial crisis, tightening credit conditions, and Athens' failure to address a growing budget deficit.

Austerity measures reduced the deficit to about 8 percent in 2012. Deteriorating public finances, inaccurate and misreported statistics, and consistent underperformance on reforms prompted major credit rating agencies to downgrade Greece's international debt rating in late 2009, and has led the country into a financial crisis.

Under intense pressure from the EU and international market participants, the government adopted a medium-term austerity program that includes cutting government spending, decreasing tax evasion, overhauling the health-care and pension systems, and reforming the labor and product markets. Athens, however, faces long-term challenges to push through unpopular reforms in the face of widespread unrest from the country's powerful labor unions and the general public. Massive austerity cuts are lengthening Greece's economic recession and depressing tax revenues.


The Philippine Embassy, Athens, Greece

26 Antheon Street, Psihiko 15452
Open from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

tel. : +30 2106721883 / +30 2106721837
fax. : +30 2106721883 / +30 2106721837;


H. E. Meynardo Lb. Montealegre, Ambassador*

Ms. Charmaine Rowena C. Aviqunil, Minister and Consul General

Ms. Shiela Marie C. Tario, Second Secretary and Consul

Redacted from the following sources: html

*Nestor Z. Ochoa is now the Philippine ambassador to Greece.