2022 | Jun
The organisation of Greek manufacturing has relatively common characteristics with other local production systems in Southern Europe as well as with the so-called Industrial Districts (ID’s), a definition given to the Italian production systems of the Third Italy. The decentralized structure of Southern European labour markets offers a typological range (Lewis and Williams 1987; Mingione 1995) that represents common social and economic relations that have specific cultural and other characteristics (Hadjimichalis 1987; Garofoli 1992). These relationships define specific patterns of local and regional dynamics and a wide range of developmental and local characteristics, rather than a single model of development within the different ‘worlds of production’ (Storper 1997) .
Yet, these patterns are not signs of underdevelopment and marginalisation, but representations of a different model of industrial production and development from the dominant Western European one.
The paper examines the relationship between manufacturing activity and urban space through the investigation of the location and operation of local production systems in the local and regional economy of Athens. It focuses on the organisation of manufacturing activity at two different spatial scales. In the first part, maps and analyses the quantitative picture of the industrial location in Attica Region. Then, through empirical research, it focuses in a local production system, the industrial “piazza” Tsalavouta, located in the developmental zone of Eleonas within the boundaries of Peristeri Municipality. The area is a typical example of the Greek version of urban diffused industrialization and belongs to the traditional productive western agglomeration of the metropolitan area of Athens. The piazza consists of industrial ensembles of mostly small/ medium multi- sectoral firms and few big and very big companies  Similar to other paradigms of local productive systems of that kind, the area is formed by a community of people and firms engaged in local production, which consecutively progress the local division of labour by valorising the external market effect. Whereas the majority of the firms are anonymous, not following the ideal type of ‘dynamism’, their vitality and reproduction depends on the adaptation and renewal of the productive apparatus and the renewal of creative practices, achieved through local- internal to the piazza- operations of socio-economic processes. These processes are based on mutual support and cooperation, common values and the tacit rules of the piazza, the environment in which productive knowledge circulates, entrepreneurship is stimulated and mutual cooperation is promoted.
Photo 1: The industrial piazza of Tsalavouta in the developmental zone of Eleonas within the boundaries of Peristeri Municipality.
The Greek crisis brought changes that challenged the function of the system, which developed defensive and more dynamic mechanisms and adaptive modes to overcome the crisis, through the diffusion of specialisation, flexibility and cooperation. Concurrently, the integration of the system within the urban fabric, in proximity to local markets is considered important, as it gives locational advantages that facilitate the cooperation with the external to the system networks.
The geography of manufacturing in Attica regionSince 2009, crisis has strongly affected Attica region. While relevant spatial studies from the mid-1990s onwards identify all periods as “crisis periods” for manufacturing, the processed data for the current period evidently show the massive decline in the larger part of manufacturing employment and a great shrinkage in firm population. In absolute figures, 2011 was marked by the loss of almost 1⁄2 of jobs since 2001. The ratio of employment in manufacturing to the total active labour force of the region declined by 3.76% from 2001 to 2011, after it had declined by 2.88% from 1991 until 2001. Whereas the greatest decline was recorded between 2011 and 2001, significant decline had also been observed during the previous decade (the ‘growth period’) when the percentage of manufacturing in employment was particularly increased .
Graph 1: Timeline of the evolution of employment by manufacturing sector, 1991, 2001, 2011. Attica Region
Source: Data proceeded from ELSTAT 1991, 2001, 2011
Overall, the percentage of manufacturing in the total labour force in the Attica Region in 1991, 2001 and 2011, followed a down- ward trend reaching 16.22%, 13.34 and 9.58% respectively. The findings of the analysis strengthen the hypothesis of the research that the manufacturing decline is not a new phenomenon and although crisis has led to a massive destruction of the productive sector as the outcome of great recession and stagnation, it therefore appears as the consolidation of the previous model of financial and territorial re- organization of labour on the global, national and urban scale.
With regard to the industrial location, the research involved the processing of all the addresses of the manufacturing firms, which were geocoded for the total of 15525 enterprises of industrial activity, in all 24 industrial sectors per municipality and postal code .
Map 1: Distribution of Manufacturing units in Attica region, 2016
Source: Data proceeded and mapped from General Commercial Registry (G.E.MI.)
The analysis of the employment pattern and the geographical representation of the enterprises depict the actual ‘quantitative picture’ of the spatial dispersion of the manufacturing activity as well as the sectoral specialization locally and regionally.
According to the numbers of firm registries, since 1995, the region had been experiencing a deteriorating deficit in businesses population. However, in the period between 2010 and 2015 a significant decrease in the total number of enterprises (- 32.11%) is recorded in the vast majority of manufacturing sectors Almost all sectors have been marked by strong shrinkages while within a decade (2005- 2015) the number of operating firms was reduced to half. Although this massive decrease, the firm population had been following a downward trend even prior to the crisis, recording a negative percentage (-10%) between 2005 and 2008 and -27% between 2005 and 2010, prior and at the outburst of the Greek crisis.
Given the spatial concentration pattern revealed by the mapping of the firms’ current location in the Attica Region, it is observed that the metropolitan area of Athens is characterized by diffused industrialization patterns whereby groups of firms are clustered together in dense urban areas. These spillovers display multi-sectoral dispersion in the majority of the municipalities, but are basically articulated along the ‘traditional’ north and south-western agglomerations of the basin along the national road leading to northern Greece.
Attica’s sub-region has different characteristics both between its distinct territorial and administrative units (Eastern and Western Attica) and the metropolitan area of Athens. Eastern Attica has grown into a pole of dispersed manufacturing activity for both big industrial plants and small multi-sectoral activities during the past decades. These ‘recently’ industrialized areas make up agglomerations where industry, agricultural land, logistics, wholesale and big retail chains co-agglomerate.
The apparent decline in the productive sector and the restructuring that took place in the urban terrain, although it traumatised manufacturing activity regionally, did not restrain the operation of a large number of traditional and dynamic sectors. The sectoral composition of manufacturing in urban areas shows the presence of many interrelated firms and sectors in one place, at the intersection with other uses, and implies the interaction of many different agents. Given the overall pattern of manufacturing concentration, it is observed that among the main characteristics of the Attica Region is the concentration of most industries in the urban centres of the metropolitan area of Athens. Within the Athens Municipality almost 1/3 of the total population of the region’s firms is located, while Peristeri, Piraeus and other important traditional centres of manufacturing activity of the north and south-western suburbs of Athens rank among the agglomerations with the highest geographical concentration of industrial spillovers.
Local productive systems and diffused industrialisation in Athens
The study focused through empirical research  on a productive enclave named Tsalavouta in Peristeri Municipality, which is located on Kifisos industrial axis and is integrated within Elaionas’ developmental zone. After the massive urbanization waves in 1950, Peristeri along with the neighboring municipalities of the western suburbs grew as dynamic zones of industrial concentration combined with a dispersal of small and medium manufacturing establishments throughout the urban fabric. Whilst the social mobility of the last decades has led to the transformation of the working class neighborhood of the post-war period to a more or less petit- bourgeois neighborhood and tertiarization has massively thrived at the expense of the old, very powerful manufacturing sector, the area maintains its diversity and intense strong plurality of different uses.
Map 2: Industrial units in Tsalavouta, 2017
Source: Field research, General Commercial Registry (G.E.MI.)
In the context of this type of urban-industrial development, space is socially reproduced through a mix of multifaceted and contradictory activities, from small/medium enterprises, industries, informal activities and housing. Mixture indicates ‘tolerance’ if not ‘common way of life’ among the residents and the industrial uses, which are spread in a large part of its area’s tissue. Firms and the way they are embedded in space constitute part of the formation of the local society and vice versa. As such, the firms cannot do without the specific socio-spatial characteristics of these areas and the areas will not be the same outside the context from which they have been evolved and by which they are renewed.
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