Greece Population and Language

About nine in ten residents speak Greek and identify themselves as Greeks. They originate from ancient Greeks, but have been mixed through the centuries by immigration of mainly Slavic people.

Greece Population Forecast

A major migration took place after 1923 when Greece lost a war against Turkey. At that time, about 1.5 million ethnic Greeks were forced to move from Turkey to Greece and up to half a million ethnic Turks were deported from Greek Macedonia to Turkey.

  • COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Greece, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.

In Thrace in the Northeast, about 150,000 Muslims live: ethnic Turks, pomaks (Muslim slaves) and Muslim Roma. Other minorities are Albanians, Christian Roma, Macedonians and Bulgarians. Many ethnic groups have a long history in Greece, others fled from the Balkans of the war in the 1990s. At the same time, people from Turkey (Kurds), the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and China immigrated. Greece’s comparatively high standard of living attracted, as did the widespread informal labor market where it was relatively easy to find bedding. More than half of these recent immigrants are Albanians.

Large refugee streams

During the 2000s and 2010s, Greece has also received hundreds of thousands of people from Asia and Africa who have mostly entered the country via Turkey in search of a better life in Europe, or on the run from war and violence. As the first beneficiary country, Greece is under EU rules responsible for accommodating them and investigating their possibility of political asylum or residence permits for other reasons. However, the Greek authorities have repeatedly received harsh criticism from the EU and NGOs for how these refugees are treated. The accumulation of large numbers of deprived people in the big cities has also greatly increased xenophobia among the Greeks. There are many reports of physical attacks with racist motives.

Greece Population and Language

Greece’s geographical proximity to Turkey and Asia has put the country at the center of the global refugee crisis of recent years. Flying has flowed from conflict hearings in mainly Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan via Turkey to Greece during the first year of the 2010s. The refugee crisis culminated in the fall of 2015, when thousands of people landed on Greek soil every day (more than a million throughout the year).

After the EU and Turkey entered into an agreement in the spring of 2016 (see Calendar), the refugee flow initially diminished dramatically. But towards the end of the decade, the number increased again. Most of the refugees wanted to move on to other EU countries, but were trapped in about 50 large camps in Greece as surrounding countries tightened their refugee policy. The data are many about how violence has erupted in the overcrowded camps, between refugees and local residents or the police (read more about the refugee crisis in the Calendar).

Shrinking population

Traditionally, emigration from Greece has been large and still lives close to five million Greeks abroad, mainly in other western countries. In the 1990s, emigration decreased markedly when living standards in Greece were raised, but since 2010, emigration has regained momentum and the country risks being affected by so-called brain drain when highly educated people emigrate.

Nearly eight out of ten Greeks live in cities. Nearly half of the population lives in and around Athens and Thessaloniki. The countryside has been largely de-populated, especially the mountain areas in the interior of the mainland.

Greece has had a high natural population growth, but it stopped during the 1990s. During the 2010s, the population has decreased as a result of emigration, declining birth rates and rising death rates.

Greek language

Greek forms its own branch of the Indo-European language family. Neo-Greek has evolved from classical Greek. In order to strengthen the national feeling during the liberation from the Turks in the early 19th century, Greek was purified from elements of other languages. The modernized language that was created was called katharevousa. It differs significantly from the spoken language, dimotiki, which has been the official language since the 1970s.



citizens are not registered according to ethnicity, but the Greek speakers are about 99%

Number of residents

10 760 421 (2017)

Number of residents per square kilometer

83 (2017)

Percentage of residents in the cities

78.7 percent (2017)

Nativity / birth

8.6 per 1000 residents (2016)

Mortality / mortality

11.0 per 1000 residents (2016)


-0.1 percent (2017)

fertility rate

1.3 number of births per woman (2016)

Percentage of women

50.8 percent (2017)

Life expectancy

81 years (2016)

Life expectancy for women

84 years (2016)

Life expectancy for men

79 years (2016)


Greek is the official language



The state budget gets approved

Just before Christmas, Parliament approves the 2011 budget, which includes both new pay cuts for civil servants and more tax increases.

The IMF commends the government’s austerity measures

The IMF loan body approves a partial payment of 2.5 billion euros in crisis loans and at the same time calls on the Greek government for faster “structural reforms”, including more redundancies.

Violent protests

Public communications are stopped, air traffic is disrupted, schools are closed and violent demonstrations are carried out in protest against the reduction in salaries of civil servants by 25 percent and the dismissal of many civil servants.


Pasok is successful in the local elections

Despite the protests against the government’s austerity policy, the ruling Pasok continues to win local elections in most regions, including Athens for the first time since the 1980s.

Wave of letter bombs

A number of embassies in Athens are exposed to letter bomb attacks. Some explosive charges are detonated by the police, while others cause minor injuries. Police suspect radical leftist groups, and anger over the government’s budget cuts is considered a possible motive.


EU assistance in managing increased refugee flows

EU border control authority Frontex sends 175 border control specialists, a helicopter, buses, police cars and vehicles with night cameras to Greece’s border with Turkey, after the government sought help in managing the influx of migrants there.


Several ministers are replaced

Prime Minister Papandreou is reforming the government to strengthen the work on the debt crisis and deal with a number of problems within the health and social insurance systems.


Resolution on pension reforms

The Government makes decisions on major changes in the pension system, including increased retirement age in accordance with the loan terms, and reduced levels of compensation.


Rescue package green light

Greece promises to borrow EUR 80 billion over three years from the euro area countries and EUR 30 billion from the IMF. In exchange for the loans, salaries of civil servants should be reduced or frozen, bonus salaries should be deducted, pensions should be reduced, VAT increased, gasoline, alcohol and tobacco taxes increased, and the average retirement age should be increased from 53 to 67 years. Union strikes and popular demonstrations follow the decision. President Karolos Papoulias demands that the corruption among politicians and the state apparatus must be combated while the austerity measures are being implemented. Otherwise, the government risks not receiving public support, he says. To date, politicians’ legal immunity has saved them from prosecution in corruption scandals.


Greece appeals for rescue packages

Germany gets the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to agree on a rescue package to Greece, a package that should be put in place if the country itself can no longer take loans on the market. Greece asks the EU and the IMF to activate the rescue package, while at the same time requesting additional loans with better terms. The requirements from the lenders are new hard savings to bring the budget deficit down to the euro zone maximum limit of 3 percent of GDP within the next three years.


The budget is losing weight by tens of millions

The government is making the third budget tightening in three months. Spending is now reduced by the equivalent of SEK 46 billion. New strikes and protests are being held.


The European Commission approves an emergency plan

In order to meet the EU’s demands for a reduced budget deficit and a lower government debt, the government presents a crisis plan, which is approved by the European Commission. The plan includes increased taxes on gasoline, tobacco and alcohol, as well as increased retirement age and withdrawn promises on tax relief. Several demonstrations and strikes against the crisis plan are arranged.


The EU requires order in government finances

The government is being pressured by information from EU representatives that Greece’s account of the state’s budget deficit and of government debt has been frozen. The Pasok government promises to try to reduce the budget deficit from close to 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 2.8 percent in 2012 and to reduce government debt, which is at 120 percent of GDP.