Rising labour shortages as holiday demand peaks

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Rising labour shortages across sectors of the economy have job vacancies at their highest for years, hampering a full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey conducted by the Federation of Employers and Industrialists (OEB) indicates 320 businesses are currently short of 9,000 staff, whereas the registered unemployed is around 11,000.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Lena Panayiotou, head of OEB’s Industrial Relations & Social Policy Department, said that businesses desperately need employees.

Panayiotou, breaking down the findings of the OEB survey, explained there is an urgent need for 4,160 employees ahead of the festive season and another 4,497 for the first half of 2022.

“That is, 320 companies are desperately looking for a total of 8,657 employees,” said Panayiotou.

She stressed the survey was conducted only among 320 companies.

The percentage of registered unemployed in October was 4.3%, which corresponded to 10,971 registered unemployed.

According to OEB’s findings, 15% of EU workers left Cyprus due to lockdowns and never returned, as the problem of labour shortages plagues the continent.

“At the same time, there was a boom in the delivery industry amid restrictive measures and lockdowns.

“The industry absorbed large numbers of unskilled staff who left the hotel sector.”

Indicative of the magnitude of the problem is that seasonal employees released from hotels are not registered as unemployed but are sent directly to appointments for employment.

“While there is a huge shortage of unskilled workers, such as porters, cleaners, there is also a shortage in accountants and secretarial staff.

“There is also a serious shortage of nurses, which the labour and health ministries are aware of”.

Local businesses may be faced with closure if no solutions are found before starting the new tourist season.

There is also a shortage of around 3,000 staff with IT skills.

In comments to the website Stockwatch, Phanos Leventis of the Leisure and Entertainment Establishment Owners Association sounded the alarm, stressing the hospitality sector will have a hard time once the new tourist season starts if a solution is not found.

In a meeting with the Minister of Labour, the association “suggested that students from third countries be allowed to work in food businesses, along with some asylum seekers who are now allowed only in auxiliary work.”

The Director-General of the Cyprus Hotel Association, Philokypros Roussounides, told Stockwatch that there is a shortage at all levels in the hotel industry.

“In particular, there is a shortage of housemaids, cleaners, staff to work in the kitchen and generally washers.

“A solution must be found before the new tourist season, as new employees will need to be trained, for establishments to maintain their high quality of service”.