Despite criticism levelled against the government over a recent Eurostat report suggesting a spike in unemployment in December, both the agency and the finance minister on Wednesday said the figures are no cause for alarm.
On Tuesday, Eurostat reported that Cyprus was one of three European Union member states to post an increase in unemployment to 14.3 per cent in December, relative to a year earlier, when it had been recorded at 13.1 per cent.
Three opposition parties – the Citizens’ Alliance, the Greens, and far-right wing Elam – issued statements lambasting the government for falsely painting a picture of economic recovery.
“In the end, the only ones who don’t feel the effects of unemployment are the chosen ones of [ruling party] Disy and [President] Nicos Anastasiades, who enjoy the privilege of being appointed to high-ranking, highly-paid posts,” the Citizens’ Alliance said.
The Green party charged that unemployment was “back on the rise in Cyprus”.
“Eurostat estimates that 62,000 men and women in Cyprus were out of a job, 13,000 of whom – or 32.8 per cent – were under 25,” the party said.
“Young people are losing their jobs, while those who find full-time employment receive wages comparable with part-time employment.”
Elam claimed that even the 62,000 figure was understated, as it did not include various groups, such as the people who emigrated in search of a job.
On state broadcaster CyBC’s morning radio talk show, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades pointed out that monthly estimates do not reflect trends the same way “quarterly or – even better – annual figures” do.
A Eurostat source confirmed this view.
“The figures published for Cyprus in the press release […] are based, on the one hand, on the Quarter 3 data from Cyprus, and, on the other, the statistical relationship between registered unemployment data and unemployment survey data in the past,” the source said.
This means that the December figure was more or less an estimate based on historic trends, which was then compared with the previous month’s estimate, necessitated by the lack of monthly data for Cyprus.
“This is why the November figures as published on Tuesday might be subject to some revisions once the final data arrives,” the Eurostat source said.
Georgiades said that in 2016, the labour market situation improved, “not only in terms of unemployment but also in terms of persons employed”, an argument consistent with Eurostat findings, which suggested a “decreasing trend for Cyprus” in year-on-year quarterly averages.
“Figures will show a significant drop in unemployment in 2016, considerably lower compared to 2015 and even lower compared to the year before,” he said.
The average unemployment rates in 2015 and 2014 were 14.9 per cent and 16.1 per cent respectively.