MORE than a quarter of Cypriots between the ages of 18 and 28 intended to go abroad in search of better employment prospects, a survey conducted by the Cyprus Institute of Statisticians found. The survey found that 26.6 per cent of this age group intended leaving, with the Institute describing its findings “extremely discouraging and disappointing.”
Institute chief, Chrysanthos Savvides, said the number was very high and argued that measures should be taken to provide real job opportunities for young people. If the country failed to do so, it stood to “lose an important productive part of its working population forever, with catastrophic consequences for the economy.”
While these are legitimate concerns, they need to be placed in an economic context. For instance, who would provide the real job opportunities for young people? The state is already employing far too many people and only last year hired some 3,000 young men to serve as professional soldiers. This month it advertised its second call-up and received more than 4,000 applications, the defence ministry noting that many of the applicants had a university degree.
Businesses, the other possible employers, are unlikely to offer jobs to youths for the sake of keeping them in the country. Things do not work like this in a market economy. Perhaps the problem is that the country is producing more graduates than a small economy, like Cyprus’ could offer jobs to. We often boast about the high percentage of people with degrees, never considering the possibility that our economy does not have the capacity to offer jobs to so many graduates. This is why university graduates end up applying for jobs as soldiers.
There is also, nowadays, a general dislike for manual or technical work, with most youngsters seeking office jobs (this problem is not specific to Cyprus), which also pushes up unemployment figures in the 18 to 30 age group. Perhaps, if there were more youngsters prepared to train as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, technicians, etc., unemployment figures could be lower. But this is an academic discussion for which there are no ready answers.
In the end, youngsters going abroad in search of work is not a disaster. It is a good thing as it shows initiative and a sense of adventure. Many of these youths will eventually return to Cyprus with good skill-sets and make a positive contribution to the economy; others will only return for holidays, to see friends and family, because they have made a life and career for themselves abroad. This is how things work in the modern age.