By Andria Kades
Illegal and undeclared work are among the most serious problems the market faces, according to Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, who said the state was determined to clamp down on them.
Speaking at a construction and mine workers meeting on Saturday, she stressed these issues “erode the economy and the successful system of Cyprus’ work relations, with consequences on creating unfavourable conditions on competition that works against employees in your sector.”
The ministry will soon announce a series of measures to clamp down on the phenomenon, she said adding that for now, inspections would be intensified.
Over the past few years there have been 15,000 inspections in the construction sector, Emilianidou said.
Although the sector is plagued by a series of problems, particularly after it was hit hard in the economic crisis, the ministry was working hard to getting it back up, however it was a matter of adapting.
“The drastic fall in demand that was observed in the immediate three years that followed from 2009 – 2011 seriously hurt the construction sector, resulting in a fall to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution to 7.8 per cent in 2011 from 11.7 per cent in 2008.”
Describing a large scale ambitious EU plan to renew 15 million buildings by 2020 making them more environmentally friendly, she cited studies by Cyprus’ Human Resource Development Authority (ANAD) saying “the green economy will create some 1,500 new jobs every year” that would mostly be absorbed by the construction sector.
For this reason, the ministry is now in the process of preparing a series of training and education programmes for energy efficiency in buildings, stressing the need for greater contribution by the private sector, trade unions and employers to promote workforce training for the construction sector and other related professions.
In 2008 the number of people working in construction hit its peak at 46,217 employees while for the second quarter of 2015 the number fell drastically to 24,374.
Trade union SEK general secretary Nicos Moiseos said they were keen on finding “a proper solution to the problems seen in the labour market primarily in the construction and hotel industry where serious incidents of violating collective agreements are observed.”
While accusing members of the state and trade unions of “driving labour relations to the middle ages” by keeping silent he expressed his hope that over the next few months wages could return to the level they were before the economic crisis.
Meanwhile the two biggest challenges the ministry faces are the high levels of youth unemployment for those aged between 15 to 24 and the long term unemployed that are looking for work for over 12 months, Emilianidou said.
“The level of long term unemployment is considered particularly concerning as the longer someone remains unemployed the harder it is for them to re-enter the labour market and society as whole that bears financial and social consequences.”
Thus, thus ministry’s immediate priority is hiring people that belong to socially vulnerable groups, employing people without work to offer care services for children, low income pensioners and disabled people, subsidising salaries and calling for plans that aim to reduce long term unemployment.
The budget for these plans exceeds €26 million, Emilianidou said.
Across the EU, the majority of jobs that are expected to be created by 2025 will primarily deal with the financial and business sector, transport, education, health and welfare.
According to the minister there will be more jobs in fields such as producing and distributing energy, producing optical and electrical equipment as well as motor vehicles and the distribution, transport and construction field.