Labour Market Restructuring and Employment Pathways: The Case of a Mixed Community (Roma, Non-Roma) in North-West Greece

By Themelis, Spyros | Romani Studies, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Labour Market Restructuring and Employment Pathways: The Case of a Mixed Community (Roma, Non-Roma) in North-West Greece


Themelis, Spyros, Romani Studies


This article draws on findings from an ongoing study on social mobility and education of Roma and non-Roma people in a provincial town in the north-west of Greece. My focus is on employment trajectories of individuals and the labour-market transformations this area underwent in the post-war years. The diverse experiences of the residents of the locale will be illustrated with respect to their employment and work histories in an intergenerational perspective. The aim of the article is to offer a renewed approach to the study of 'mixed' communities whereby dominant and marginalised groups, non-Roma and Roma, are examined together. This is done here in a way that takes into account both the subjective interpretation and objective conditions for both the Roma and the dominant group, male and female, as it argues against a theorisation of 'othering' Roma groups.

Keywords: Roma in Greece, economy, labour market, employment, education, social mobility

Introduction

This article explores aspects of employment and labour-market trajectories of Roma and non-Roma individuals in a community in the north-west of Greece. Drawing on findings from the qualitative component of a mixed-method study, it sheds light upon differential occupational routes and experiences of both men and women. Its scope spans three generations of respondents as it adopts a diachronic perspective in the exploration of the career histories of individuals (and to an extent their families). It aims to offer a renewed approach to the study of 'mixed' communities whereby dominant and marginalised groups, non-Roma and Roma, are examined together. At a more substantive level, it intends to go beyond conventional accounts of employment of Roma1 which reserve a marginal position for inter-group differentiation along social class lines and often lead to a non-critical marginalisation and 'othering' of the Roma people. It argues that, in similar contexts, economic and employment differences between the Roma and the dominant group cannot be explained through synchronic accounts that are based on exploration of cultural or ethnic diversity which customarily reifies difference. These differences are explored here through employment trajectories which can only be theorised adequately if related to their socio-historical context. In this way individual accounts and experiences are not treated as anomalies of success or failure within a hierarchical and unequal social structure but are located into the web of the relations of production that cut across all domains of social and economic life.

The article is structured such that it follows three generations of participants through their occupational careers, while at the same time aspects of the structure of the labour market, the employment opportunities and the wider socio-economic conditions are unravelled.

1. Some aspects of the Greek economy and the labour market in the postwar years

For a big part of the post-war period era, namely, from 1949 to 1974, Greek development was characterised by rapid economic growth and accelerated industrialisation, despite the fact that Greece had lost nearly 70 per cent of her national wealth (including public infrastructure such as roads and bridges) during the the Second Word War.2 This notable progress was achieved due to foreign (financial and other) assistance and, partially, to domestic sources3 but it was brought to an end by the global economic and oil crises that broke out in the 1970s (Christodoulakis and Kalyvitis 2001). After 1974, for two decades, Greece experienced economic deceleration which started being reversed in the mid-1990s, when a renewed and steady wave of growth was brought about and a significant recovery in most of the economic indicators was realised.

In terms of employment (Figure 1), significant changes occurred throughout the post-war period, which reflect the drastic restructuring in the labour market. Thus, agriculture, which had been the main pillar of the Greek economy both in respect to production output and labour-force employment, was now turned into a sector with secondary significance.

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