Contribution to EIRO thematic feature on Youth and work - case of Cyprus
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1. Regulatory framework
Apart from the law on the Protection of Young Persons at Work, Law 48(I)/ 2001 no other special provisions have been made, either by law or by collective agreements, to regulate youth employment, unemployment and working conditions.
Law 48(I) 2001, as the title indicates, is a protective piece of legislation covering the employment of young persons by any employer, while work relating to the provision of domestic service in a private household or any work considered as not being harmful, damaging or dangerous to adolescents in a family undertaking is excluded from the scope of application of the Law (Article 3). In terms of the definition however, L. 48(I)/ 2001 doesn’t provide for a specific definition of young worker. It simply provides for the following definitions:
- Adolescent means any young person who is not under fifteen and not over 18 years old.
- Child means any young person who is under fifteen years old.
- person means any person under 18 years old.
In this context, L. 48(I)/ 2001 mainly regulates:
- The employment of children, which is prohibited except for the purpose of vocational or occupational training (Article 6), as well as their employment in cultural, artistic, sports and advertising activities (Article 7).
- The working hours of children (Articles 7 and 8).
- The working hours of adolescents and young persons, including night work (Articles 13-18).
- The protective framework of employed adolescents (Articles 19, 20 and 24), listing among other things several factors, processes and works that are likely to entail specific risks for young persons or works and processes in which young persons shall in any case not be employed.
- articles 30-33 provide for a number of violations that are sanctionable under the specific legislation.
2. National Programmes on Youth employment
Policies at national level concerning youth and in particular youth employment and unemployment are only recently developing, mainly as a result of Cyprus’ accession to the EU, in May 2004. In particular, the most recent relevant policies and measures are included in the first National Action Plan for Employment (NAP), for the period 2004-2006, that Cyprus has prepared and submitted within the framework of the Employment Guidelines adopted by the European Council and the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPGs). Similarly, any changes that have been made through the process are part of the Cyprus National Lisbon or Reform Programme (NLP) for the period 2005-2008.
Despite the fact that the Cyprus economy is characterised by conditions of near full employment, and with one of the six lowest unemployment rates in the EU-25, youth unemployment, as in the case of many EU countries is higher than desired. In particular, according to the official data of the Statistical Service of Cyprus (Labour Force Survey), in 2004, the unemployment rate of the age group 15-24 reached 8.7%, which is more than double the average overall unemployment rate (4,3%). Additionally, a significant percentage of youth, remains unemployed for more than 12 months (20, 1% in 2004), which indicates difficulties in the transition process from school to work. Further, 49, 2% of the young unemployed are new entrants to the labour market, with no previous working experience or skills, while young persons (aged 15-24) form about 19% of the working age population, and exhibit an employment rate of 37,3% and an inactivity rate of 59,1% (2004). It should be mentioned that although the Statistical Service of Cyprus doesn’t use the term young worker per se, for the purposes of statistical research and analysis, it places young workers in the age group of 15-24.
In this context and given the targets and benchmarks of the European Employment Strategy, the need for targeted active measures for specific groups, including young people, becomes a priority for Cyprus. The general direction refers to the following:
- Development of active policies for the prevention of unemployment and supporting employment mainly through the provision of individualised support addressing the specific needs of targeted groups.
- Development of education and training within the framework of the lifelong learning policy.
- The quality of education and its closer link to the needs of the labour market.
- The opportunities throughout working life for diversified, reliable and easily accessible education and training.
Particularly in view of the need to increase participation in the labour market of inactive women and the young, the following measures are promoted:
In the framework of the policy priority areas which call for a renewed endeavour to build employment pathways for young people and reduce youth unemployment as called for in the Youth Pact and resolute action to increase female participation and reduce gender gaps in employment, unemployment and pay, the Human Resource Development Authority (HRDA) will promote, over the period 2005-2008, 3 Schemes for selected target-groups, co-financed by the ESF, in order to facilitate their adjustment to work life and their integration into employment:
- Promotion of training and employability of economically inactive women.
- Promotion of training and employability of the unemployed.
- Promotion of training and employability of young secondary education school leavers.
As far as inclusive education and training policies are concerned, a measure of significant importance for young people is the redesign of the Apprenticeship Scheme by directing it towards labour market requirements. This measure aims to provide an alternative education and training pathway for young persons who drop out of the formal education system. It should bee mentioned that the HRDA plays a central role in policy formulation and training activities. Its general mission is to create conditions for planned and systematic training and the development of the Cyprus human resources at all levels and in all sectors (with the exception of the self-employed and government employees) in order to satisfy the needs of the economy within the framework of the government social and economic policy.
3. Role and views of the social partners on Youth at work
On the level of social dialogue, the social partners have not, to date at least, shown any particular interest in young employees. Hence no initiatives have been noted on the part of employers’ organisations or trade unions, in the form of either policy recommendations or in specific actions with reference to youth employment, unemployment and working conditions. As a result, and though the big trade unions maintain special Youth Departments, the issue of youth at work has not specifically been addressed through collective agreements, only in specific sectors of economic activity, such as in the construction industry, where there are special provisions, mainly on the matter of pay, for apprentices. It should be mentioned however, that the HRDA it is administrated by a 13-member Board of Directors with tripartite character where representatives of the Government, the employers and the trade unions participate.
4. Discussions and research
Despite the fact that in the Cypriot system, collective agreements have traditionally played a primary role in regulating industrial relations, with the law playing a secondary regulatory role, the content of such agreements is fairly limited. In this context, the terms and conditions of employment of young workers are not part of the collective bargaining agenda.
So far, the question of youth at work has not been approached specifically through research. Only recently, the Cyprus Labour Institute (INEK/ PEO) carried out a relevant research for the Cyprus Youth Board. In particular, the research, titled Unemployment, Underemployment and Heteroemployment: Research for the Labour Uncertainty and Insecurity of Youth in Cyprus, was completed in 2005 and examines the issue of uncertainty and insecurity of youth at work that originate from:
- Employment conditions.
- Working environment.
- The status of youth in the Cypriot community.
In Cyprus, to date at least, the question of youth at work has not been approached specifically, either through legislation or through collective agreements, while national policies concerning youth and in particular youth employment and unemployment are only recently developing, mainly as a result of Cyprus’ accession to the EU, in May 2004. A possible explanation for the limited involvement of the social partners is the relatively low youth unemployment rate in Cyprus in comparison to most other Member States in theEU-25. However, given the targets and benchmarks of the European Employment Strategy the importance of youth employment and unemployment is expected to assume higher significance on the national agenda.
(Eva Soumeli, INEK/PEO)