2. The occupation of the Greeks
Almost all the Greek emigrants in Australia before 1880 tried their chance in the goldmines, while certain worked in the coalmines.The economic weakness of Greek emigrants those years, in combination with the tendency to exclude foreigners (not native Australians) from the more regularly and lucrative professions, led the Greeks to turn to small commercial businesses (usually fish-markets, greengrocer’s shops, restaurants etc) and no to cattle-breeding or the agriculture, professions that allow the shaping of constant and viable settlements and communities.
It is characteristic that in the period before 1880, only two or three Greeks managed to become farmers.Most of the others were turned to the small commercial businesses that we mentioned before.These businesses did not require a big capital, but mainly intensive and hard personal work.Moreover, the occupation with such type of activities did not leed the Greeks in conflict with the organised Australian social classes and trade unions and professional teams.Still, it created the conditions for growth and extension of this enterprises and, more important, it created occasions for employment for other emigrants or even more for attracting new immigrants.
The same situation also continued until 1920.In the period between 1890-1920 it was very difficult, if not impossible, for the Greeks as well as for emigrants from other Mediterranean countries to be occupied in professions and industries where they functioned powerfully Australian trade unions.The main reason of this difficulty was the extensive unemployment of those years.The results of the 1921 census revealed that from the economically active Greeks of Australia, roughly 17.6% were employers, 22.7% self-employing, 48.3% salaried workers, and 11.4% unemployed.However most salaried workers worked for those few Greek employers.
The pre-war crisis did not change the situation and the occasions for employment for the Greeks of Australia.An important change begins after the Second World War, when the Australian Government realised the need of manning of its developing industry with workforce that could not be recruit from the Australian population, because of its little number.This observation led to the decision of supporting the migration to Australia, policy which took various forms, up to the point to subsidy presumptive immigrants by covering their expenses of transfer.This policy not only explains the increase of the migratory current from Greece to Australia after 1950, but justifies also the change in the professions of Greek emigrants, many of which they were then turned to the industry.
Today, the Greeks emigrants of first generation are occupied mainly as workers (28.6%) and tradesmen (22.6%), while women are occupied mainly as workers (34.1%) or machines operators (21.5%).Compared to the total population of Australia, Greeks show an important delay as professionals or non-professionals and important progress as tradesmen, workers, machines operators and drivers.
Regarding the fields of economic activity, most Greeks (regardless of sex) are occupied in the constructional section (29.8%), and secondarily in the wholesale and retail trade section (25.0%).
The Greeks participate in the workforce of Australia in roughly the same percentage (60.9%) as the total population of Australia (60.0%).The rate of unemployment of Greek of first generation rises to 8.9%, slightly less than the total rate of unemployment in Australia (9.2%).
2.2 Economic status
Even if the first emigrants to Australia were poor and many of them could not find better opportunities in Australia than those they had in Greece, however many of them accomplished to financially stand on their legs and distinguish themselves as important economic elements of Australia.
Today in Australia there are many successful businessmen, the fortunes of which are calculated in millions of dollars.Their activities extend in various economic sections, as estate agencies, large companies portfolios, piscatorial fleets, processing factories of piscatorial products, construction companies, etc.Most of them are self-made businessmen of the first or second generation, that were distinguished mainly because their of personal hard working.Few of them enjoyed acquired basic education and fewer acquired academic degrees. However, because of their business genius they accomplished to be distinguished, not only in the Greek community, but also in the Australian society.
The total economic image of Greeks of Australia is not as promising as it seems to be. Indeed, 56.0% of Greeks declare an income of less than 12.000 dollars a year, while the corresponding percentage for all the Australian population is 53.3%.The Greeks fall short concerning the total of the Australian population with income more than 18.000 dollars a year, or less than 6.000 dollars a year.However, the average income of Greeks is higher than that of the total population of Australia.Thus, we could say that generally the Greeks of Australia belong in the rather intermediate income layers.