Cyprus: Working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Job quality,
  • Published on: 18 Prosinec 2013



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Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

This publication initially records aspects of current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market such as the payment system, skills development, health and safety and reconciliation of working and private life. It then attempts to record differences between the groups of workers in question in a specific occupational sector, and subsequently gives an assessment of the evolution of working conditions in the years of recession in the country and what may happen in the future if the crisis continues. In the last part, details are given of the programmes being implemented by the Cypriot authorities which directly or indirectly aim at employment and working conditions of young entrants, and the actions of the social partners in relation to this question are cited.

QUESTIONNAIRE

This EWCO CAR is specifically focused on the group of “young entrants to the labour market”. This group includes all young people (between 15 and 30 years old) who have recently entered into the labour market (i.e., people with a work experience shorter than 1-2 years in the labour market), with relative independence of their age and for whom work is their main and core activity. This definition excludes young people for whom studies are their main activity but who combine their studies with some remunerated activity as part of their training programmes (e.g. apprenticeships in dual systems), as well as unemployed young people, even if they are actively looking for a job (see Background note for more detailed information on the concept of young entrants to be considered in the research).

The CAR coordinating team is conscious that such as “narrow” definition of “young entrants to the labour market” can make difficult the identification and collection of relevant information on the topic. Therefore, and in the case no national information is available using this “narrow” definition, National Correspondents can use a “proxy” definition of “young entrant to the labour market” as any young person (i.e. between 15 and 30 years old) who is in employment, irrespectively of the number of years of experience that he/she has in the labour market (again, unemployed young people are excluded from the analysis).

The questionnaire focuses on the following topics:

  • General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups (around 700 words)

  • Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country (around 600 words)

  • Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis (around 500 words)

  • Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market (around 500 words)

  • Final commentary on the main results (around 100 words)

Block 1: General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups

NCs are kindly requested to provide the most updated information (coming from national surveys, administrative registers or ad-hoc national research/studies) on a number of working conditions-related variables specifically related to young entrants to the labour market in comparison to other age groups. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences, either positive or negative, can be identified in relation to other age groups, stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 700 words

1.1 Career and employment security issues

Although there are no reports/statistics or research on national level in Cyprus for most of the variables requested in relation to working conditions of young people 15-30 years of age who are new entrants to the labour market, some information from other sources may give an indication of some of these working conditions. As regards the pay system, for example, a ministerial decree known as the Minimum Wage Ministerial Decree is published, which applies to nine occupations and determines the gross beginning wage and its adjustment after 6 months of continuous employment with the same employer. The decree is mandatory and is protected by the Minimum Wage Law; it is revised on 1 April every year by the Council of Ministers. Although the decree makes no clear reference to the 15-30 age group, nevertheless young entrants appear to be covered more than any other age group. The occupations referred to in the decree are the following: (1) sales staff, (2) clerks, (3) auxiliary healthcare staff, (4) auxiliary staff in nursery schools, (6) auxiliary staff in schools, (7) caregivers, (8) cleaners, (9) security guards. For the first eight, the minimum gross wage, in accordance with the most recent decree which came into effect on 1 April 2012, was EUR870.00 per month, and after 6 months of continuous service this amount increases to EUR924.00. For security guards, the amount is set at EUR4.90 gross per hour and after a 6-month period of continuous employment the amount increases to EUR5.20 gross.

In a series of other occupations not covered by the above-mentioned law, minimum starting wages of new entrants are determined by the relevant sectoral agreements. In this as in the former case, no age limits for young labour market entrants are set, despite the fact that it is obvious that the relevant provisions of the sectoral agreements mainly cover the age group we are examining. Taking the construction industry as an example, Article 6 of the collective labour agreement (page 4), which was recently revised and will remain in force until June 2014, stipulates that the minimum wage for young blue-collar entrants is EUR350.00 per week, with an increase of EUR15.00 per week every year for six years, and for general-duty workers the minimum wage for young entrants is EUR300.00, with an increase of EUR16.00 per week every year. It must also be noted that in this collective agreement reference is made to pay decreases of all workers, including young entrants, due to the financial crisis, and consequently a shrinkage of the construction industry with a total decrease in pay of EUR10.00 per week for 2013 and EUR9.00 for 2014. With regard to working hours, these are the same for everyone, both young entrants and others, i.e. a working week of 38 hours. As regards fear of losing one’s job, particularly in this period of time, this appears to be greater for all age groups and for the young entrants age group specifically. The mass introduction of foreign workers in industry, both EU citizens and citizens of third countries, has created huge problems for workers as a whole and young entrants in particular. This is for a variety of reasons: first, the large majority of foreign workers perform undeclared work and thus employers blatantly violate the collective agreements and labour legislation. This impacts access for young people who wish to enter industry, and also affects to a large extent the terms and conditions of employment of existing employees. Through these violations, a large number of industrial workers have already lost their jobs and are unemployed, and at the same time levels of insecurity have increased among workers, both young entrants and others, who are fearful of losing their jobs, according to a representative of the Construction Workers Union of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour, PEO (Παγκύπριας Εργατικής Ομοσπονδίας, ΠΕΟ). This was also one of the reasons for the open-ended strike held in the construction industry from 24 January 2013 until 13 February 2013.

Another example is that of the hotel industry, where the minimum wage for young entrants in each occupation and job in the hotel industry is set by the industry-wide collective labour agreement. As an example, the minimum wage for a young entrant assistant waiter has been set as follows: basic pay together with the cost-of-living allowance is EUR612.26 plus 5 units (10% service charge). As in the construction industry, in the hotel industry the employment of a large number of foreign employees, almost 50% of all hotel employees, from EU member states especially the former Eastern bloc, has created tremendous problems in employment, access, working conditions and treatment of workers, both young entrants and older employees. One of the many problems faced by most young entrants in the sector, according to Lefteris Georgiadis, General Secretary of the Union of Hotel and Recreational Establishment Employees of Cyprus, SYXKA (Συντεχνία Υπαλλήλων και Κέντρων Αναψυχής, ΣΥΞΚΑ) affiliated to PEO, is that they are hired under individual employment contracts, in which the terms and conditions of employment are less favourable than the terms of the collective labour agreement. This means a blatant violation of the collective labour agreement in the sector.

1.2 Skills development

There are no specific data in this regard illustrating the existing situation of young entrants in employment. Nevertheless, a range of programmes involving continuing training, which includes both young entrants and older workers, are implemented by the Human Resource Development Authority, HRDA (Αρχή Ανάπτυξης Ανθρώπινου Δυναμικού, ΑνΑΔ) and involve a single enterprise or several enterprises (see block 4.1. for details) in Cyprus or abroad. The Authority covers, depending on the size of the enterprise it is addressing, 60%, 70% or 80% of staff and trainer costs, and the rest is covered by the enterprises themselves. Each enterprise/organisation applies to HRDA to cover the internal training needs of its staff; it presents specific lesson plans, training hours and trainers for approval and subsidisation. Subjects are open and are determined by the needs of each enterprise and may include issues of gender, equality, social insurance, migration, modernisation, productivity, union protection and more practical matters such as computer, Internet and software skills.

1.3 Health and well being

From the information we received from the Department of Labour Inspection of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance (Υπουργείο Εργασίας και Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων) with regard to reported accidents at work, where employees remain off the job for more than three days, it would appear that the 16-30 age group has quite a high rate of accidents; however, it is lower than that of the 41-60 age group. The following table illustrates the situation:

Table 1: Number of Accidents by age group 2010-2012

Year

Total number of accidents reported to the Department of Labour Inspection

Number of accidents by age group

16-30

31-40

41-60

61+

 

%

 

%

 

%

 

%

2010

2184

602

27.56

503

23.03

973

44.45

106

4.86

2011

2010

543

27.01

493

24.53

887

44.13

87

4.33

2012

1741

445

25.56

397

22.8

821

47.16

78

4.48

Source: Department of Labour Inspection. Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance

As an initial observation. we should note that the Department of Labour Inspection has not divided the age groups proportionally. Nevertheless it appears. at first. that the number of accidents rates has been gradually falling since 2010. as the numbers for each age group have also been falling from one year to the next. For 2010. as the table shows. the highest accident rates were seen in the 41-60 age group. followed by the 16-30 age group. Of 602 accidents that year. 133 took place in the construction sector. The same pattern continues for the next two years. i.e. the majority of accidents involve the 41-60 age group. followed by the 16-30 age group. 44.13% compared to 27.01% for 2011. and respectively 47.16% and 25.56% for 2012. Of all (543) accidents suffered by the 16-30 age group in 2011. 108 occurred in the construction sector. and in 2012 of the 445 accidents in this age group. 75 occurred in construction. What can be said as a general observation is that. as total accidents fall from one year to the next. at the same time the number of accidents in each age group also falls (although this does not mean that the rate falls proportionately every year). along with the total number of accidents in the construction sector for the 16-30 age group.

1.4 Reconciliation of working and non-working life

The statutory framework of the Republic of Cyprus offers important provisions that contribute to the ability to reconcile family and working life (e.g. harmonisation of family law with European standards. implementation of the principle of equal treatment. modernisation of the situation as regards marriage. adaptation of the legislation on maternity. parental leave. part-time employment. creation of a family court. protection and care for children. etc.). of women in particular. but of course no particular mention or distinction is made of young labour market entrants. Serious efforts are being made to inform enterprises and raise public awareness towards this end by the National Mechanism for Women’s Rights (Εθνικός Μηχανισμός για τα Δικαιώματα της Γυναίκας). the political parties and the trade union organisations. For example. the trade union schools of the two biggest unions. PEO and SEK. have for the last two years provided to their union officials. via the continuing training programmes of HRDA. seminars on reconciliation of working and family life. In addition. child daycare units have begun to appear in large organisations such as the University of Cyprus (Πανεπιστήμιο Κύπρου). and these are in great demand by employees. PEO has also held information seminars on this issue. open to the public. in rural areas. In 2012 the Department of Labour. in collaboration with the Labour Council. published a study entitled Study on Work-Life Balance: Reconciliation of Working Life with Private and Family Life. Finally. in 2008 the Social Welfare Services of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance published The Role of Local Authorities in the Promotion of Care Policies for the Reconciliation of Family and Working Life. Nevertheless there is a lot that needs to be done on the state. enterprise and trade union levels. as well as on the level of information and awareness-building for the public in this regard.

Block 2: Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country

NCs are kindly requested to provide the most updated information (coming from national surveys. administrative registers or ad-hoc national researches/studies) on differences of working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market. for a series of variables. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences. either positive or negative. can be identified. stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 600 words

2.1 Personal characteristics of young entrants

Data on differences in working conditions of young entrants based on their personal characteristics do not exist in Cyprus. The statistical service does not collect data of this type. and no qualitative studies have been conducted either by national or private initiatives for this purpose. Some data regarding differences in relation to the age variable for a specific sector of employment are shown in the next chapter (2.2).

2.2 Occupational characteristics

As in the case of the differences in working conditions of young entrants based on their personal characteristics. there is also no information on differences in occupational characteristics. for the same reasons. However. some information from a specific survey conducted by the Cyprus Labour Institute INEK- PEO (Ινστιτούτο Εργασίας Κύπρου. ΙΝΕΚ-ΠΕΟ) regarding the hotel industry gives some indications with regard to the age variable.

This survey. which was conducted in the Districts of Ammohostos and Paphos and was entitled Survey on the Implementation and the Violations of the Collective Labour Agreement and the Trade Union Organisation in the Hotel Industry (2012). records a range of violations that affect employees’ working conditions and in many cases the age group most affected is 18-25-year-olds. Despite the fact that the survey does not investigate whether workers in this age group are new entrants. it is obvious that objectively a large proportion are new entrants. Indicatively the survey reports that of all participants in the 18-25 age group 84.2% were non-Cypriot workers. Also. as regards employees’ employment status. only 11.1% of all participants who stated that they were in permanent jobs were in the 18-25 age group. In addition. the largest proportion. 35.4% of all participants. who stated that they were not union members were in the 18-25 age group. Although there are a variety of reasons why workers were or were not members of unions. 17.5% of all workers stated that they were afraid of losing their jobs if they joined a union. and 50% of those statements were made by people in the 18-25 age group. And finally. it was reported that the greatest percentage. 35.5%. of all those who stated that they do not receive the 13th salary were again in the 18-25 age group.

Block 3: Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis

NCs are kindly requested to provide information on the following items: NCs are kindly requested to provide information (coming from national surveys. administrative registers or ad-hoc national researches/studies) on differences of working conditions amongst the group of young entrants to the labour market in comparison to the situation five years ago. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences. either positive or negative. can be identified. stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 500 words

3.1 Please provide information on the evolution of working conditions of young labour entrants in the last five years. Have working conditions of this group improved/deteriorated in comparison to the existing situation five years ago (before the economic crisis began)? What are the reasons for these changes

There are no data from national reports that would show the evolution of working conditions in the years of the financial crisis for young entrants. However. it has been estimated that the deterioration of the Cypriot economy from 2008 to date has had a negative effect on all the country’s economic. social and work activities. including employability and unemployment rates. New labour market entrants are not exempt from these effects. Given that compared to other workers their bargaining power is limited. due to a lack of work experience. in the view of a representative of the Department of Labour Inspection the financial crisis may have affected them more. Also in certain sectors of employment the collective labour agreements. which are inextricably linked with working and employment conditions. have begun to be called into question. In addition. in the broader public sector. the benefits of public servants. both young entrants and older employees. began to decrease beginning in 2011. Legislation to bring about further decreases which has been implemented in the country beginning in early 2013 for the recovery of public finances. which emanate from the package to save the economy that was agreed upon between the Republic and the Troika. has an additional effect on public servants as well as on the private sector. at the same time.

3.2 Based on possible existing prospective studies. please provide information on the expected evolution of employment levels and working conditions of young labour market entrants in your country in the near future (coming 2-3 years)

No studies exist on expected developments in relation to employment levels and working conditions of young entrants. Nevertheless. given the most recent decisions of the Eurogroup on the haircut on deposits. the closure of one of the biggest banks and the recapitalisation of Cyprus’s biggest bank. it is estimated that the Cyprus economy will shrink even further. taking employment and unemployment indices. social welfare and working and employment conditions for all workers along with it. It is also estimated that. as in other eurozone countries that have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Troika. young people will pay the highest price as regards employment and unemployment.

Block 4: Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

4.1 Identify main recent national measures/initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by public authorities in order to improve employment opportunities and working conditions for young entrants to the labour market.

In efforts to improve the working conditions of young labour market entrants, by decision of the Council of Ministers, the Scheme for training new entrants to employment in health and safety issues has been implemented since 2007. New entrants to employment are the target group. as the title of the scheme implies. but ages of this group are not specified. Defined as entitled to subsidisation are all employers doing business in any sector of the economy. It is noted that employees entering employment for the first time may participate in these programmes. as long as six months have not elapsed since the date they were hired. The objectives of the Scheme are obviously to train new entrants in order to protect them as individuals from risks to their health and safety inherent in the nature of their work. The scheme is being implemented in collaboration with the Department of Labour Inspection. the HRDA and the Cyprus Productivity Centre. KEPA (Κέντρο Παραγωγικότητας. ΚΕΠΑ). Implementation of the programmes has been assigned to educational bodies or other natural persons that fulfil the criteria that have been decided upon. The HRDA meets the costs of training with the beneficiaries. employees and enterprises. and KEPA covers costs for self-employed people through its budget. Nevertheless. the scheme has attracted extremely low participation rates from employers; that is why. in accordance with the written report given to us for the purposes of this questionnaire by the Department of Labour Inspection of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance. it was decided for the purposes of better promotion of the scheme that the social partners would undertake the implementation of the scheme by forming a new partnership.

As regards improvement of the employability of young labour market entrants. as part of the work of the HRDA a series of multiple actions for Lifelong Learning of Employed People and Labour Market Entry or Re-entry are being implemented. The objectives of these actions involve the employability and adaptability of the labour force. Although most of these actions make no specific mention of young entrants to employment. they are also offered to the specific group of young entrants. They may be single-company programmes or multi-company programmes. and cover actions both in Cyprus and abroad. These programmes are the following:

1. Single-company Continuing Training Programmes in Cyprus

The aim of these programmes is to meet needs of staff and the hierarchy of enterprises/organisations. through the design and implementation of training programmes by the independent business enterprises. and cover the whole country. HRDA bears 60%. 70% or 80% of training costs for staff. depending on the size of the enterprise. As stated in the 2011 Annual Report of HRDA. in 2010 EUR4.115.455 were spent on these programmes. and in 2011 this amount was increased to EUR4.175.933. with 33.256 participating employees.

2. Single-company Continuing Training Programmes Abroad

The programmes’ objective is to train employees abroad by introducing technology and know-how to enterprises as well as by introducing innovations in business management. HRDA covers 60%. 70% or 80% of costs depending on the size of enterprise. for the transfer abroad and the cost of training. In 2011. according to the 2011 Annual Report of HRDA. 1.038 participants were subsidised. compared to 473 in 2010. and the amount spent in 2011 was EUR2.072.593. compared to EUR1.050.258 in 2010.

3. Emergency Employment Support Scheme with Individualised Training of Unemployed Persons in Enterprises

The objective of the scheme is the targeted provision of incentives to employers for the employment and individualised training of unemployed people in accordance with specific job needs. As in the previous schemes. the rates of subsidisation from HRDA are 60%. 70% or 80% of training and staff costs. depending on the size of enterprise. with a maximum monthly subsidy of EUR1.600. In 2010 subsidies were paid for 400 participants. and for 683 participants in 2011. Total spending in 2010 was EUR2.115.228 and in 2011 the amount reached EUR3.154.861.

4. Multi-company Continuing Training Programmes (Standard and High-priority)

In these programmes company employees participate in training programmes implemented by state or private training institutions. Depending on the size of enterprise. 60%. 70% or 80% of costs are covered through the programme’s organiser. In 2011 subsidies were paid for 16.449 participants. whereas in 2010 there were only 8.706 participants; Expenditure was EUR5.984.516 and EUR3.237.819 in 2011 and 2010 respectively.

5. Continuing Training Programmes for Trade Union Officials.

The purpose of the programmes is to train union officials in relation to their union tasks; they are implemented by the Trade Union Training Centres. The Centres cover the costs of organising and implementing the programmes. the level of content and number of participants. In 2011 there were 4.491 participants. and 5.501 in 2010. Total costs for 2011 were EUR541.6I69 and for 2010 EUR735.787.

6. Training of Secondary Education Graduates (Accelerated Initial Training Programmes)

The objectives of the programme involve the training and acquisition of work experience mainly by newcomers to the labour market. Needs are met for technical and other occupations. All costs are covered for the training part and attendance at the in-company part. and a weekly allowance is paid to participants. In 2011 training for 392 people was subsidised. compared to 466 people in 2010. with expenditures of EUR1.067.252 and EUR1.822.904 for 2011 and 2010 respectively.

7. Training of Tertiary Education Graduates

The objective of the programme is focused on staffing businesses through the recruitment and training of unemployed graduates of universities and other schools of tertiary education. The subsidy to the employer is 60%. 70% or 80% depending on the size of enterprise and cost of training as well as staff costs. with a maximum monthly subsidy of EUR1.600. In 2010 198 people participated. and in 2011 there were 544 participants. Expenditures for 2010 and 2011 were EUR1.363.433 and EUR4.641.445 respectively.

8. Training on the Apprenticeship System

The purpose of the scheme is the employment and training of young people through the apprenticeship system. Subsidies are paid to employers for the wages of apprentices for the days they attend technical schools. In 2011 subsidies were paid to 111 employers. compared to 134 in 2010. The expenditure for 2011 was EUR134.465. and for 2010 it was EUR313.207.

4.2 Identify main recent initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by social partners (either at national. sector or company level) in order to improve working conditions amongst young entrants to the labour market.

The trade union organisations in Cyprus participate in the National Employment Committee. the Labour Advisory Board and the Board of Governors of the Human Resource Development Authority (HRDA). In the view of a representative of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO). Pieris Pieri. through the participation of trade unionists in these bodies and the proposals they submit. the various programmes mentioned in the previous section (4.1) are created. The position of PEO. according to its representative. regarding the admission of new entrants to employment – and employment itself is considered to be the greatest challenge. despite the examination of their employment conditions in the current stage. given the high rate of unemployment among young people due to the continuing financial crisis – is the growth of the sector of research and innovation. which will absorb significant numbers of young graduates. At the same time. this absorption of young people helps improve working conditions for a part of young entrants. whose working conditions are less favourable than those of older workers. According to the representative. this can resolve problems of working conditions of young entrants such as the temporary nature of jobs for young people. continuing training and skills development. career advancement and forms of precarious employment such as part-time employment and employment under individual fixed-term contracts.

Commentary by the NC

Although the employment of young people and levels of unemployment among young people appear to be a particular concern for the Cypriot authorities and the social partners. no special efforts are made towards very specific measures regarding the various aspects of working conditions for young people between 15 and 30 years of age entering the labour market. In most of the programmes implemented in Cyprus that are directly or indirectly related to employment and employees’ working conditions. the aspect that might lay emphasis on the group in question is absent. although this group is in no way discriminated against. Planning. vision. coordination and a scientific approach by the Cypriot authorities that would push the Republic’s services. such as the Statistical Service and the relevant ministry departments as well as state bodies such as HRDA and KEPA. to collect such information are of the essence and are what is missing from their field.

Loucas Antoniou. Cyprus Labour Institute. INEK-PEO

List of Interviews

  • Aristodemos Economides. Senior Member of Labour Inspectorate. Ministry of Labour and Social Insurances

  • Andreas Christou. Labour Market Observatory. Ministry of Labour and Social Insurances

  • Grigoris Dimitriou. Human Resource Officer. Training Services Directorate. Human Resource Development Authority (HRDA)

  • Orestis Messios. Department of Labour Relations. Ministry of Labour and Social Insurances

  • Lefteris Georgiades. General Secretary. Union of Hotel and Recreational Establishment Employees of Cyprus (SYXKA) – PEO

  • Andreas Konstantinou. Construction Workers Unions. PEO

  • Pieris Pieri. Executive Secretary. PEO

  • Marina Koukou. chief of working Women’s Department of PEO.

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