The welfare department’s unemployment and job searching platform is deficient in crucial ways, Green Party MP Charalambos Theopemptou said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Cyprus Mail Theopemptou said he had raised the issue years ago, when as a lecturer at Tepak he was told by his students that they were unable to register their specialty in the government’s job search engine – because it simply did not exist as a category in the system.

“Students were told, ‘We don’t have your job title, which other one would you like to be filed under?’”

“This obviously raises huge questions about the state’s capacity to properly address labour issues,” Theopemptou pointed out.

It is crucial for a country to have a clear picture of the true number of its unemployed or low-income workers for strategic planning purposes, some of which have far-reaching implications in terms of a host of other social issues, including housing, social benefits and homelessness, he said.

“For a start, a state must have proper visibility of who is unemployed and graduates seeking work should be encouraged to register in the system, even if purely for data collection purposes. The current system has not been upgraded since 2008,” Theopemptou said.

Moreover, it is imperative for the labour department to possess an evidence-based foundation for funding and designing reskilling and training programmes.

Chamber of commerce (Keve) director Marios Tsakis agreed it was high time to synch up the welfare department’s outdated system with current realities.

New professions are created all the time, others abandoned…in terms of finding workers its also important to have it clarified who is available and with what skills,” Tsiakis said.

“A properly conducted employment policy hinges on knowing how many local people are available before searching overseas for foreign labour.”

Asked how feasible it would be to restructure the state system in a prompt manner, Theopemptou remarked it would not be particularly challenging as models already exist for such a system with the international labour office (ILO) and the EU, wherein up-to-date job categories are catalogued and used.

The MP said he would be raising the matter to be discussed in parliament and had already sent a letter to the House labour committee about it.

Meanwhile, the labour department’s office of statistics on Monday released a report stating that 14,699 people were unemployed and listed as job-seeking, with 11,687 of these having been entered in the last six months. A total of 3,012, according to the official data, are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits, having exceeded their six-month limit.

According to the Cystat data 4,965 registered unemployed on job search lists are seeking work in the hotel and catering services, 2,024 in wholesale and retail trade; and 723 in construction.

As for education attained, 4,387 (close to 30 per cent) of the registered unemployed are graduates of higher education; 5,281 (over a third) are graduates of general secondary education and 1,183 (8 per cent) graduates of vocational education.

The majority of those registered fall between the ages of 25 and 59. A total of 779 are up to 24 years old, 1,587 between 25 and 29; 3,778 between 30 and 39; 3,464 between 40 and 49; 3,380 between 50 and 59; 1,596 between 60 and 64; and 115 over 65.

These numbers raise a slew of questions about how the state intends to solve the problem of spiralling poverty in parallel with proclaimed labour shortages in certain sectors, particularly in light of announcements that employers are seeking to import third-country labourers to fill the gaps left after the state’s clamp down on illegal migrants, who were illicitly or otherwise filling these posts to date.

Labour unions, meanwhile, are strongly opposed to the easing of requirements for bringing in staff on work visas without collective agreements in place, arguing that correct labour policy should protect and codify dignified work conditions to prevent exploitation.