Greece’s cleaning sector - challenges and opportunities

13th of March 2017
Greece’s cleaning sector - challenges and opportunities
Greece’s cleaning sector - challenges and opportunities

Anthi Iliopoulou is general manager of Alter Ego, one of the largest integrated facility management providers in Greece. With its headquarters in Athens, Alter Ego has over 800 employees and provides services throughout the country. It has 68 major Greek and multinational businesses among its clients and is a subsidiary of the European Reliance Group of companies.

Iliopoulou writes for ECJ about the current state of the Greek cleaning sector, the challenges it faces and prospects for the future.

There are approximately 3,000 cleaning companies in Greece currently, 25 of which are total FM service providers. The top 60 were examined in the ICAP Group Professional cleaning sector study in 2016. Of that 3,000, 97 per cent of them are under private ownership.

Based on 2015 data from the top 60 companies the market size is estimated to be €260,000,000. The private sector accounts for 61 per cent of turnover with the public sector accounting for the remainder, and there are 15,500 employees working at the top 60 companies.

The main characteristics of the cleaning sector are:

• Large number of small family companies having limited overheads that operate on a local level

• Pricing and margins under pressure, due to very high competition

• Lack of strict institutional framework

• A complicated labour market with changing laws, black labour and lack of qualified staff. The majority of staff originate from eastern European and Balkan countries

• ‘Toxic’ subcontractors

• Short-term contracts

• Non-paying or/and late-paying clients

• 28 per cent market shrinkage since 2010;

• ISS  is the market leader with 20 per cent of market share.

Low status job

The job of cleaning is considered to be of low or no status, one that is performed by people with no or low education. Due to headcount-based contracts, these jobs are done by an army of workers using old, dirty tools.

This perception of the cleaning industry is actually not far from the reality. However in the last five years a serious change in approach from the top cleaning companies has occurred, whereby the business is seeing higher levels of professionalism and many of the top cleaning contracts are based on productivity and performance.

Contracting out

The majority of the cleaning in offices, retail, hospitals, airports, ports, public buildings and educational properties is contracted out to cleaning companies. There are still some specialised building categories such are factories and hotels where cleaning work is covered in-house.

The price of cleaning services has been under pressure for the last seven years (the years of the Greek economic crisis). While the cost of resources (labour, cleaning materials and equipment) did not decrease proportionally. The problems of the labour market further aggravate the condition of the sector. At the same time, customers demand a higher level of service, since they have to justify every penny they spend.

As a result, it is quite challenging for cleaning companies that choose to operate within the framework of legality to be profitable and sustainable within the Greek market.
The lack of profitability inhibits innovation and adaptation of the latest method and technologies. So the Greek cleaning sector doesn’t follow the pace of international developments.

Economic situation

We cannot say that things are improving economically in Greece. However customers and cleaning service providers, after seven years of economic crisis, seem more mature now. Some clients have realised there is a limit to price-cutting and that unreasonable cost reduction can actually negatively influence the level of the services provided.

Therefore the market for the higher level of contracts is slowly levelling while the top cleaning companies have stopped following small businesses in their strategy of unreasonable price (below cost) reductions.

The workforce

It is relatively easy to recruit cleaning staff in Greece. However it is difficult to find well qualified/trained employees, since the majority of them are untrained or badly trained staff. The majority of cleaning companies train their staff on the job but not on a regular basis. However, there are a few companies, including Alter Ego, that provide continuous training. For example we offer theoretical and practical training in our academy for health & safety, methodology, PPT as well as on-site training projects carried out on a regular basis.


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  • ISSA Interclean
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