Knowledge of Greek is to be a key consideration in the granting of renewed work permits, as well as for new foreign applicants, Minister of Labour Yiannis Panayiotou said on Wednesday.

Despite earlier statements regarding a serious clampdown on illegal work the minister acknowledged that the domestic workforce is nonetheless insufficient to cover the island’s labour needs.

In seeking to fill staff shortages and streamline procedures, priority will be given to the unemployed and students from third countries already residing in Cyprus, the minister said.

However, the ability to speak Greek will soon be one of the criteria taken into consideration for those seeking employment, the minister told state broadcaster CyBC.

Noting that this issue involves ongoing workforce upgrading and training, the minister said that tying Greek language proficiency with the issuance and renewal of work permits for third-country nationals will be promoted this year.

Long-term employees on the island, especially in the service sectors, must be able to demonstrate proficiency in Greek as this is “something which, in a country like ours, is important for many reasons” the minister said.

Speaking a “satisfactory” level of Greek will thus act as a point in favour of workers from third countries who wish to be employed in Cyprus.

“Satisfactory knowledge of the language will speed up examination of applications submitted for arrival in Cyprus for work – as is the case in other EU member states,” the minister said.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Panayiotou stated that a targeted campaign to attract EU workers is also underway, announcing that he is in contact with his EU counterparts on the matter.

He said the campaign entails signing of bilateral agreements with accession states and third countries for the utilisation of medium and low-skilled workers.

The minister emphasised that filling the gaps with foreign personnel would be done in tandem with curbing the view of the island as an attractive destination for illegal and irregular migrants and that inspections would be ramped up to 10,000, compared to 6,000 in 2023.