Cyprus Editorial: Is the government’s labour apartheid over?

04 June, 2014 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

Deriving from the Afrikaans word for racial segregation or simply put, “the state of being apart”, the government’s year-long two-tiered strategy on labour reintegration finally seems to be over. Or is it?
Undoubtedly, those who conceived the short-term labour-reintegration programmes during the past 12 months had just one thing in mind: satisfy voter demand.
That is why job vacancies in the local press, as few as they may be, reach out to university graduates, which sounds a bit ridiculous when it comes to recruiting ‘administrative assistant’ (clerk), ‘call centre advisors’ (tele-sales), ‘commercial administrators’ (shop-sales), ‘transport coordinators’ (messengers) and ‘logistics supervisors’ (warehouse).
Despite its noble intentions, particularly in the face of spiraling unemployment, the government had in the past been duped into putting down the condition of a university degree and being unemployed for the past 12 months (who isn’t?), in order for employers to benefit from the incentive to hire jobless people.
Then again, companies are caught between a rock and a hard place, as the schemes so far – at least three announced in the past months – do not allow them to hire experienced people with skills, often costing them more to train the new recruits and showing them the ropes, with a very high probability that those youngsters will be laid off 12 months after the incentive expires, burdening the unemployment benefit fund further.
This lack of serious planning is just like the gaffe of the previous administration that tried to boost underpopulation by suggesting financial incentives to kick-start a baby-boom. That backfired as the scheme never got through, but in the meantime the 9-month procedure to realise the final product had already gotten underway. Now, you have a growing number of newly-expanded 5-member families who are seeking state aid from the cash-strapped welfare department, because of a stupid idea, that a stupid civil servant devised and stupidly did not follow through.
The same stupidity seems to be ruling within the Ministry of Labour (where the Welfare Dept. is supervised) that has placed other conditions for the hiring of the new category of non-grad jobless. That is, the hiree cannot be a shareholder in the company and cannot be a relative of the employer, either.
This last requirement automatically disqualifies nearly half the unemployed people who came out of the family-run SMEs, which means that small businesses will either not hire at all or they will hire young grads who very often have no place in small companies.
But fear not, just as with past grandiose declarations, the Ministry will once again issue a statement saying that “a new incentive scheme will be announced in the near future” to deal with yet another category of neglected unemployed people.