Chapter 20. Greece

Figure 20.1. Structure and performance of the SME sector in Greece
Figure 20.1. Structure and performance of the SME sector in Greece

Sources: Charts A, C, D: OECD Structural and Demographic Business Statistics Database 2018,; Chart B: For enterprise births, OECD Structural and Demographic Business Statistics Database 2018, Employer Business Demography dataset; for bankruptcies, Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2018: An OECD Scoreboard; Chat E: OECD Structural and Demographic Statistics Database 2018, Employer Business Demography dataset.


SME business conditions and access to strategic resources

Institutional and regulatory framework

Over the last decade, Greece undertook extensive legislative reforms to reduce administrative burdens on SMEs and improve insolvency regime, which are currently in line with the OECD median level. As the complexity of procedures and debt restructuring remain major problems for many Greek companies, in 2017 ‘Extrajudicial Debt Settlement mechanism’ for businesses was strengthened, with the simplification of procedures for the settlement of debts up to EUR 50 000 to banks, tax authorities and social security institutions. In addition, the general business registry’s electronic one-stop shop was established in 2018, leading to a 70% reduction in registration costs.

Market conditions

The internationalisation performance of Greek SMEs remains one of the weakest in the EU with less than 10% of Greek SMEs currently exporting. In 2018, in the framework of the EU Operational Programme Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship & Innovation (EPAnEK 2014-20), a new measure was introduced to strengthen and support the export orientation of manufacturing SMEs, in particular to non-EU countries. Through the Hellenic Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development S.A., the government co finances direct loans to export-oriented SMEs, and the Greek Export Credit Insurance Organization (OAEP) provides short-term and long-term export credit insurance to SMEs.


Poor intermodal connections and low quality of logistics affect the competitiveness of Greek businesses, with import and export lead time above the OECD average. Since 2017, a new legislative framework sets stronger rules for state-funded infrastructure projects. The performance of Greece in the digital infrastructure is uneven, with relatively low mobile broadband penetration. The Next Generation Access (NGA) programme aims to the deployment of fast and super-fast broadband technologies in rural areas with support from EU funds.

Access to finance

Credit conditions in Greece have not recovered to the pre-crisis levels. In 2017, 23% of Greek SMEs reported finance as their most pressing problem against the EU28 average of 7%, and the number of SMEs applying for bank financing more than halved between 2010-2017. To enhance credit conditions for SMEs, several financial instruments with funding from EU structural funds have been implemented. In 2017 two new funds were established which provide financing under loan and guarantee systems, namely, the Intermediate Entrepreneurship Fund and the Western Macedonian’s Regional Development Fund. These initiatives complement the EU COSME 2014-20 programme, as well as Entrepreneurship Fund II and the Energy Saving Fund, established in 2016 and backed by the European Structural Investment Funds.

Access to skills

Despite high education participation rates, the mismatch between the labour market and education system is significant, and Greek workers are among the most likely to report being over-qualified for their jobs among OECD countries. Adults also lack opportunities to re-skill via on the job-training or professional courses. The public employment service (OAED) is being reformed to improve matching between employers’ needs and the provision of skills. Training and certification programmes are offered since 2017 to increase workers’ skills and competences in the private sector.

Access to innovation assets

The innovation performance of Greek SMEs is in line with the OECD median, while medium-sized firms exhibit a sub-par performance in R&D. Greek SMEs benefit from a good integration into knowledge networks but lag in knowledge-based capital investment. In 2016, EquiFund was established. Managed by the European Investment Fund, it participates in funds investing in strategic sectors for the Greek economy, supports innovation investments, technology transfer and the commercialisation of R&D outcomes, and provides early stage and scale-up funding for innovative entrepreneurs. The 2016 Start-up, Spin-Off, Spin-Out programme fosters the creation of knowledge-intensive start-ups.

The full country profile is available at


European Commission (2018), 2017 SBA Fact Sheet Greece, (accessed on  December 2018).

European Commission (2018), Greece, (accessed on  December 2018).

OECD (2018), OECD Economic Surveys: Greece 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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