Employment boost and vocational training a priority, says Commissioner Thyssen
Strengthening employment placement services and promoting vocational education and training, are the two priorities to be set by the Cypriot government in order to reduce unemployment, according to Marianne Thyssen, the EU Commissioner responsible for employment.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, the Commissioner said that the quality of the current programmes of active policies for the labour market should continuously and effectively be monitored. She highlighted the recommendations given to Cyprus on the labour market within the framework of the annual recommendations to member states (country specific recommendations) and compared the conditions and progress in Cyprus with the situation in Greece.
However, Thyssen denied that the European Commission has called for the abolition of the 13th and 14th salary in the private sector in Greece, analyzing the reasons behind the high unemployment and heralding labour mobility and movement of civil servants. She also requested a report be prepared for the future labour market changes, the trade union law and collective bargaining.
“There are many factors that contributed to the positive employment results of Cyprus. The economy returned to real growth in 2015 (1.6%) and is expected to continue in the following years (around 2.0%). The European Social Fund has played a crucial role in financing Active Labour Market Policies schemes to tackle unemployment, which have proved to be successful. There was also a decline of the workforce itself, for example by unemployed persons leaving the country or becoming inactive,” she said.
“However, despite the significant drop, still more needs to be done. Unemployment is still high at 14.1%. Especially youth unemployment at 29.8% and long-term unemployment (41.2% of the unemployed were longterm) remain a source of concern.
“Although the challenge of high unemployment is similar both in Greece and Cyprus, the economic and labour market structures and the root causes of the economic and financial crises that hit the two countries are very different.
“In Cyprus, the crisis had been driven by the collapse of the financial sector, but the country was equipped with wellfunctioning institutions, including a flexible labour market, while the introduction of a guaranteed minimum income in 2014 contributed towards a better targeted and more coherent welfare system. From the outset, the country assumed full ownership of the financial assistance programme, implementing structural reforms in consultation with social partners and making full use of technical assistance. This allowed for a swift return to growth in 2015 accompanied by improvements in the labour market.
“The main priority for Cyprus now is effective implementation. For this, the capacity of the existing structures needs to become even more robust. First of all, Public Employment Services’ (PES) capacity reinforcement and innovative reforms is a must. This is crucial to meet demand and to deliver quality job-search assistance, individualised counselling and reach out to unemployed people that are not registered.”