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20 June, 2024
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Minister upset as staff gaps widen

European Commission flags skill gaps in construction

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

In its 2023 Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) report, the European Commission identifies major shortages in construction, healthcare, science, technology, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) occupations, spanning high, medium, and low-skilled roles. Occupations facing serious and persistent shortages, as per the survey, include cleaners, cooks, waiters/waitresses, and salespersons. Labor shortages are not just a temporary issue but are expected to persist due to the digital transition and an aging population.

Furthermore, the conclusion drawn is that labor shortages extend beyond Cyprus, constituting a broader European concern. According to Eurostat data (20th quarter of 2023), the Netherlands leads in job vacancies, with Cyprus ranking 9th among the 27 Member States.

The Commission's proposed solutions to address the issue encompass reforming tax and benefit systems, enhancing work incentives, investing in education and skills development programs, and advocating targeted labor migration from non-EU countries to specific skill groups.

In light of the above, it's odd that Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou, during an appearance on SPOR FM and the Diaspora News show, seemed frustrated by the demands of professional associations in tourism, catering, and retail. He questioned why employers aren't utilizing community workers from EU member states or unemployed Cypriots.

This is surprising because, on one hand, Eurostat figures reveal a serious pan-European problem, not a local or temporary issue. On the other hand, those same figures indicate a notably high rate in Cyprus. Examining data from the Cyprus Statistical Office shows most vacancies are in hospitality, catering, and retail. Requests for facilitating third-country labor seem somewhat justified, given the impending summer tourist season.

However, this doesn't excuse employers from their responsibility to attract staff with competitive pay and favorable working conditions. It's also essential to address the imbalance between young people's studies and the labor market's needs, extending beyond tourism to professions like science. With 1001 vacancies in scientific roles in Cyprus, authorities should take notice and work to bridge the gap between labor market needs and education.

In any case, ignoring a problem certainly doesn't help solve it.

 [This article was translated from its Greek original]

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