The population of Greece

Who are the Greeks?

greek-peopleThe population of Greece has seen various changes and has been influenced by immigration, which is a significant aspect of its demographic landscape. As of recent estimates, Greece has a population of about 10.5 million people. The nation has experienced a population decline over the last decade due to low birth rates and high emigration rates.

Greeks or Hellenes represent about 93% to 95% of the population. They share a common Greek culture, language, and heritage that dates back thousands of years to the civilizations of Ancient Greece and Byzantium.

Historically, Greece was a country of emigration, with many Greeks moving to the US and Western Europe. However, in recent decades it has become a destination for economic migrants from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, significantly altering its demographic composition. The country has also been a major entry point for asylum seekers and refugees due to its geographical location, adding to its complex multicultural landscape.

Overall, the demographic and composition of Greece is shaped by its history as both a source and destination for migrants, its various indigenous groups, and the contemporary global migration patterns that bring new ethnicities to its borders​

Historical and cultural background

The historical and cultural background of the Greeks has a rich history that spans thousands of years, reflecting their profound impact on the world in numerous areas including philosophy, arts, politics, and science. Here’s a deeper look into this vibrant history:

The roots of Greek culture extend back to the Bronze Age with the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, which laid early foundations for what would evolve into the Classical Greek era. This period, flourishing between 500 and 323 BC, is particularly renowned for its advancements in political theory, particularly the development of democracy in Athens. This era also saw the rise of seminal philosophical figures such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle whose thoughts on ethics, metaphysics, and politics have enduring influences today.

Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic period saw the spread of Greek culture across a vast empire that reached from Egypt to India. This era was characterized by significant developments in science and the arts, with institutions like the Library of Alexandria serving as centers for learning. The subsequent Roman conquest of Greece also saw the integration of Greek cultural and philosophical practices into the Roman Empire, illustrating the deep respect Roman elites had for Greek culture.

The Byzantine Empire, also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, was predominantly Greek-speaking and lasted from 330 AD to 1453 AD. It was during this period that Greek Orthodox Christianity became a major religious force, influencing art and culture in the region through its religious texts and iconography. The preservation of classical texts and traditions by Byzantine scholars was critical in transmitting Greek cultural values to the rest of Europe, especially during the Renaissance.

Greece came under Ottoman rule in the mid-15th century, which lasted until the early 19th century. This period was marked by economic and cultural challenges, but also by the endurance of the Greek Orthodox faith and the Greek language, which helped maintain a distinct Greek identity. The Greek War of Independence (1821-1832) marked the creation of the modern Greek state, symbolizing a rebirth of Greek cultural and national identity.

The 20th century was a turbulent time for Greece, with numerous conflicts and political changes, including two World Wars, civil war, and military dictatorship, all of which impacted its socio-economic structure. Greece’s entry into the European Union in 1981 marked a significant change, promoting economic growth and political stability. Today, Greece is celebrated for its rich historical legacy, vibrant culture, and its contributions to arts and sciences which continue to be studied and revered around the world.

Socioeconomic contributions of Greeks

The socioeconomic contributions of Greeks, both within Greece and globally through the diaspora, are extensive and multifaceted. Spanning various fields such as economics, academia, arts, and science, these contributions reflect the historical legacy and modern capabilities of the Greek community.

Greeks have played a significant role in the economic spheres of the countries they reside in. In Greece, the shipping industry stands out as a major contributor to the economy, traditionally dominated by Greek magnates. This sector has not only bolstered Greece’s economy but also positioned it as a global leader in shipping. Beyond shipping, Greeks are influential in various business sectors around the world, contributing to the economies of their host countries through entrepreneurship and business leadership.

Academic and Scientific Achievements

The academic contributions of Greeks can be traced back to ancient times with philosophers like Aristotle and Plato. In contemporary times, Greeks continue to contribute significantly to academia. Many Greek academics work in prestigious universities worldwide, enhancing research and teaching in fields such as medicine, engineering, and the humanities. Greek scientists are also noted for their research contributions in areas ranging from physics to medical sciences.

Political Impact

Throughout modern history, Greeks have been involved in politics both within and outside of Greece. Prominent political figures of Greek descent have held important positions in various countries, influencing policy and governance. Their involvement helps highlight Greek cultural values and perspectives in global politics.

Arts and Culture

The cultural contributions of the Greek diaspora are profound and diverse. Greek music, dance, and cinema have a unique identity that has been preserved and promoted across the world through community festivals and events. In the realm of arts, Greeks have been prolific in both classical and contemporary disciplines, contributing to global art movements and fostering cultural exchanges.


Philanthropy is another significant area where Greeks have made global impacts. Many wealthy Greek entrepreneurs and business people have established foundations and charities that support a variety of causes around the world, including education, health care, and cultural preservation.

Culinary Influence

Greek cuisine has transcended national boundaries to become beloved globally. Greek restaurants can be found in nearly every major city around the world, serving traditional dishes like gyros, baklava, and tzatziki. This culinary outreach serves as a form of cultural diplomacy and fosters a greater appreciation for Greek culture.

Technological Innovation

In the tech industry, Greeks have been at the forefront of several innovations, particularly in the fields of computer science and information technology. Greek entrepreneurs have founded high-tech companies that contribute to technological advancement and innovation in Silicon Valley and beyond.

These multifaceted contributions highlight the dynamic role of Greeks in shaping socioeconomic landscapes around the world. Their efforts in various domains not only enrich their communities but also contribute significantly to global development.

The Greek diaspora

The Greek diaspora is a significant global phenomenon, involving the migration of Greeks to various parts of the world across many centuries. The historical and cultural impact of these communities is profound, influencing not only the regions in which they settle but also maintaining strong cultural ties to their homeland. The Greek diaspora represents a powerful example of cultural preservation and adaptation. Through their widespread communities, Greeks have managed to uphold their traditions and language while also contributing significantly to global diversity and culture. The diaspora continues to play a crucial role in the cultural and economic life of Greece itself, maintaining strong transnational connections that shape the nation’s identity.

Historical Migration

The concept of diaspora is not new to Greek civilization; it dates back to ancient times when Greeks established colonies throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, including modern-day Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, and North Africa. These colonies were not just economic outposts but also centers of Hellenic culture and learning.

Byzantine and Ottoman Eras

During these periods, Greeks continued to establish communities across the Byzantine Empire and beyond its borders. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 and subsequent Ottoman rule prompted further migrations, with many Greeks fleeing to Western Europe, contributing to the Renaissance through their knowledge of ancient Greek texts.

Modern Diaspora

The modern phase of the Greek diaspora began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was driven by economic hardship and later by political instability and wars.

To North America

Large numbers of Greeks emigrated to the United States and Canada. These immigrants often took jobs in industry and later established small businesses, including diners and grocery stores. Today, vibrant Greek communities exist in cities like New York, Chicago, and Toronto, celebrated for their cultural festivals and Orthodox churches.

To Australia and South Africa

Significant Greek populations also moved to Australia and South Africa. In Australia, Greek is the seventh most commonly spoken language at home, a testament to the substantial size of the Greek community.

Post-World War II Migration

The aftermath of World War II and the Greek Civil War saw a new wave of migration, primarily for economic reasons, to Western Europe and North America.During the 1960s, there was a significant movement of Greeks to Western European countries, particularly West Germany, as “Gastarbeiter” or guest workers.

This migration was driven by an agreement between the Greek and German governments to send workers to help in the post-war reconstruction of Germany. Similar agreements with other countries such as Belgium and Sweden also saw numerous Greeks relocate to take advantage of the booming industrial economies in these nations.

Cultural Contributions

The Greek diaspora has enriched the cultural tapestry of their host countries. Greek parades, dance, music, and the introduction of Greek cuisine have played pivotal roles in multicultural exchanges.

Cultural Festivals: Annual festivals often feature traditional Greek music, dance, food, and religious celebrations.
Religious Influence: The establishment of the Greek Orthodox Church in diaspora communities has not only provided a spiritual centre but also helped maintain Greek traditions and language.
Culinary Influence: Greek cuisine, known for its health benefits and vibrant flavours, has been embraced globally, with dishes like moussaka, tzatziki, and gyros becoming household names.

Greeks abroad often engage in the economic and political life of their host countries, with notable individuals achieving significant success in various fields such as business, politics, and the arts.

Despite the successes, Greek diaspora communities often face challenges related to identity and integration. The balance between preserving their rich heritage and adapting to new cultures is a dynamic aspect of diaspora life.