By Peter Stevenson
SOME 40 per cent of the 70,000 or so people registered as unemployed have been out of work for six months, 24 per cent have been jobless between six and eleven months and 36 per cent have been jobless for more than a year, the House Labour Committee heard yesterday.
Committee chairman, AKEL’s Andreas Fakontis said the unemployment fund was currently running on a deficit of €50 million. “Unemployment in Cyprus is turning into a real nightmare and unfortunately now we are first when it comes to the rate of unemployment in the EU,” he said.
He said unemployment had quadrupled since 2008 while the number of long-term unemployed is growing longer every day. In Cyprus unemployment benefit is only given for six months.
“On many occasions we have said that the best way to fight unemployment was through development but for that to succeed there needs to be a comprehensive policy which will create a new economic model, create new jobs and protect social cohesion,” he added.
However this was becoming more difficult due to the current financial climate and the reduced state budget, said Fakontis.
The committee chairman revealed that up until June of this year a total of 32,678 people had applied for unemployment benefit compared to 28,812 in the same period last year.
“The unemployment fund has a substantial deficit which is approaching €50 million,” said Fakontis but he said the money would be found.
“Unemployment benefit is not given out of pity. It is a right that is given under certain circumstances and under certain criteria which are provided for by the law,” Fakontis said.
The committee also discussed the issue of how to clamp down on fraudulent claims.
“If certain people are defrauding the state and receiving unemployment benefit even though they are working, or if they live in other EU countries and come to Cyprus just to get their unemployment benefit, is a matter for the labour ministry to look into,” said Fakontis.