By Poly Pantelides
FROM BOASTING a below-average unemployment rate in 2007, Cyprus now has one of the EU’s highest jobless rates, hitting the young the hardest, data presented by the island’s statistical services Cystat shows.
The data, presented during a conference on Friday organised by the national anti-poverty network Cyprus (NAPN), painted a depressing picture of growing jobless rates in Cyprus. The figures on youth unemployment were particularly bleak.
Closing at 15.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2013, Cyprus’ jobless rate was only behind Greece, Spain, Portugal and Croatia, and the EU’s statistical services foresee August closing at 16.9 per cent, said Cystat’s Dora Kyriakidou.
Unemployment in the second quarter of 2007 came to 3.4 per cent, safely below the EU average, but has been hovering above the average since 2011, Kyriakidou said.
Where only some 10.9 per cent of the under-25-year-olds were unemployed in that period of 2007, some 40.3 per cent of the under-25s were unemployed in the second quarter of 2013. At 35 per cent, over a third of all unemployed, have had higher education and for the first time this year, more Cypriots have been unemployed compared with their foreign counterparts. Cyprus has a high migration rate and a big proportion of the island’s labour force comes from non-Cypriots. However, the jobless rate has been rising for everyone in Cyprus, regardless of nationality, Kyriakidou said.
But as unemployment has been rising, so has the duration of stints between jobs with about ten per cent now remaining unemployed between two and four years, while 36 per cent of the unemployed have been looking for a job for over a year. In 2008, 64 per cent of the unemployed found a job within six months and just 12 per cent were still looking for a job after a year, Kyriakidou said.
The hardest hit sectors has been that of construction industry which had a 2.0 per cent unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2008 when the real estate sector was booming and had a 25.6 per cent in the same period in 2013. In hotels and restaurants unemployment went up from 7.1 per cent in 2008 to 21 per cent in 2013. In wholesale and retail trading, unemployment shot up from 3.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2008 to 15.8 per cent in the same period this year.
Among women, the highest unemployment rates were in retail that accounted for 30 per cent of unemployment among females, followed by clerks at 18 per cent. Among men the highest rates related to craftsmen at 25 per cent, salesmen at 14 per cent and manual labour workers at 13 per cent.
Speakers at the conference said radical measures needed to be taken to prevent people slipping further into poverty. A labour ministry official who read a statement by his minister said a number of measures by the government aimed to contain the rising unemployment levels. Most of the government’s schemes are temporary measures that subsidise partial employment in certain sectors such as retail and the tourist industries. The labour ministry said it was currently preparing an action plan to combat youth unemployment and also to support the payroll of small businesses.
In January 2009, there were 13,364 registered unemployed in Cyprus, according to Cystat. This September, some 52,112 people were registered as unemployed. Registering as jobless enables people to get unemployment benefits for up to six months and also apply to government-related schemes. The government is looking to rationalise their benefits system in the coming months.