By Pavlos Loizou
OVER THE past few weeks I have grown more concerned about the mismatch between Cyprus’ society and economy.
Cyprus’ society comprises of four different groups. The first and second groups comprise of those from overseas who reside on the island (around 24 per cent of the population or 200,000 people).
These non-Cypriot groups are at the extremes of the employment spectrum. The first is the more affluent segment of the market comprising entrepreneurs, accounting and legal services professionals, etc while the second group is at the low-end of the employment spectrum consisting of those undertaking manual labour.
Let’s call the first group Ivan and the second group Mihai.
The third and fourth groups are Cypriots. The one is termed as ‘middle class’ and encompasses the majority of the local population employed in state organisations, financial institutions and major corporations. Let’s call this group Eleni.
The last group are locals who either undertake manual labour or who are low level employees in the service sector, mainly tourism and commerce. Let’s call this group Andreas.
Andreas tries his best, but sees that his employers almost always favour Mihai as he is a hard worker and carries out his work with gusto. Andreas has learned that the only way to move up in society and become like Eleni, is for his kids to go to university and get a job with one of the big employers.
He has warned his kids not to follow his profession and has pushed them to undertake a degree even if they did not want to. Eleni has learned that working for a large organisation is the best place to be, as she has a guaranteed income, employment safety and low number of working hours.
In turn, Eleni has groomed her kids to follow in her path and not to be risk takers.
Ivan and Mihai observe the risk adverse nature of Eleni and Andreas and are perplexed by their respective lack of ambition and willingness to undertake manual work.
Ivan utilises Eleni’s knowledge to develop his business interests in tourism, services, etc whilst Mihai continues to work hard and save money because he knows Andreas would not work for the same salary and that Andreas’ kids are not even on the market.
This segmentation of Cyprus’ society explains a number of things relating to the current state of affairs in the economy. Eleni’s salary is being reduced while her colleagues are being made redundant or are jumping ship. Andreas is out of a job because Mihai is willing to work harder and for a lower salary. Andreas’ kids are disillusioned; their father pushed them on a path which they did not necessarily want to follow and now they have reached a dead-end.
Eleni and Andreas moan because they are cornered. The bubble they have meticulously constructed has burst and the only thing they can do is complain and blame everybody else for it.
Ivan is troubled by the moaning of Eleni and Andreas, so he keeps his distance hoping that they will settle down, realise that the ‘good times’ was just a phase, and that they will now become more productive and efficient.
The problem is that neither Andreas or Eleni know what to do, or rather they don’t like what needs to be done. Andreas and his kids need to compete with Mihai, playing to their strengths which are language skills, professionalism and appreciating how local customs work.
Eleni needs to move outside her comfort zone and realise that she can’t hide behind her union anymore and that her kids need to work for smaller salaries or find employment overseas.
The immediate issue for Andreas and Eleni is that in trying to do the best for their kids, they indebted themselves by paying for their education and catering to their whims.
In doing that, their kids have learned to expect everything from their parents. They believe that money is a phone call away to the local bank and that work will come via a relative working for the government.
Whilst Andreas and Eleni remember how things were before Ivan and Mihai came to Cyprus, in order for their kids to have a chance of living well in the ‘new’ Cyprus they have to undergo a complete transformation of expectations and ethics.
Pavlos Loizou MRICS is managing partner of Leaf Research [email protected]