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I am not leaving without revising the Strategy for workers from third countries, says Kousios

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I am not leaving without a review of the Strategy for workers from third countries, says Kousios – Clear message in all directions, noted – Trade unions are absent

The Minister of Labor and Social Insurance Kyriakos Kousios clarified today that he will not leave the Ministry without promoting the revision of the Strategy for the Employment of Workers from Third Countries, stressing that the this issue is the competence of the Council of Ministers, unlike the issue of Automatic Price Indexation.

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In statements in the context of the account of the work of the Ministry of Labor and while he is already receiving criticism from trade unions on the matter, Mr. Kousios said that he cannot sectors such as agriculture and the tourism industry are left without workers, while there is no interest from Cypriot workers.

“There is no way I will leave the Ministry without adopting a new employment strategy and I want this message to be clear in every direction. This Government has executive power until February 28. Until February 28, I will perform my duties as Minister of Labor and Social Insurance and I am not going to postpone any performance of my duties and give it to the next one”, he emphasized.

He also addressed criticism that he is pushing the issue of employing foreign workers while leaving the ATA issue to his successor, saying he did his best as a mediator but diametrically opposed views between trade unions and employers' organizations prevented him from submitting a mediation sentence.

“This Government undertook the mediation for ATA, it did not refuse or refer it to the next administration. On the contrary, through suffocating timetables, which unfortunately were set by the trade unions, the Minister of Labor and their colleagues mediated”, he said, adding characteristically that the positions of the social partners were “one in the east and the other in the west, which did not give the possibility for this Government to intervene further”.

He noted that any decision by the Government that would predetermine what will be done with ATA cannot be done at this stage. “And we said that if the new Government takes over, we should not bind it if it wants to take any catalytic initiative”, he said.

He also explained that the issue of ATA “is something that once you decide it stays and is not like the issue of changing the policy on employment from third countries, which if a decision is taken by the Council of Ministers and does not satisfy the next Government, it can be changed immediately “.

Mr. Kousios also noted that the Government cannot interfere in the private agreements that the trade union movement will make with employers.

He said he had sent a letter asking for the views of the social partners. “I will take their opinions seriously, judge and recommend the policy to the Council of Ministers,” he said, recalling that the same had happened in the case of the National Minimum Wage.

The trade unions were absent.

A journalist pointed out the presence of employers' organizations from the event, while trade unions are absent, with Mr Kousios saying they have been invited, adding that it would be unfair to make any comment as he does not know the reason for their absence. “Maybe it's due to reasons beyond their control, maybe it's due to an indirect sign of displeasure for some actions of the Minister, I can't know,” he said.

“It's to be expected when you make reforms or promote new ones measures, there will be disagreements, as I have said, with both the trade unions and the employers' organizations”, added Mr. Kousios.

Next is the pension reform

In relation to the Pension reform, Mr. Kousios said that the first study of the International Labor Office (ILO) has already been presented and added that he has invited the social partners for the presentation of the study on February 7. This, he said, will be discussed with the social partners and recommendations will be given to the ILO for the preparation of the final study on the basis of the policies to be followed.

“It is something that, yes, in this case I will bequeath to my successor, but the exhibitions will have been launched so that he can continue immediately”, he added.

He also noted that based on our obligations we should in July 2023 to amend the Social Insurance legislation to include the expansion of the self-employed, adding that the actuarial studies have been done and we know exactly in which direction we are headed.

Mention to Zeta< /strong>

In the presentation of the Ministry's achievements, Mr. Kousios made special reference to his late predecessor Zeta Emilianidou, stressing that she had left an indelible mark on the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance.

“An iconic personality , who with her ability, her foresight put her stamp on the social welfare state and on the labor affairs of our country and managed, through the policies she implemented, to respond to the implementation of the political program of President Anastasiades for a social welfare state”.

She referred to the innovations introduced during her Ministry, such as the Minimum Guaranteed Income, the establishment of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare, so that greater emphasis is placed on welfare, the baby dowry scheme, the widow's pension for men, leave and paternity benefit.

“It delivered a welfare state increased by €1.6 billion beyond what it received,” he said.

National Minimum Wage, benefit for 20% of of all employees

In his report, Mr. Kousios, among other things, referred to the establishment of the National Minimum Wage, which he described as “one of the biggest reforms in the country”. as well as trade unions, a diplomat was quoted as saying that “if you hear criticism from both sides, it means you've done your job well”.

Mr. Kousios said that with the establishment of the minimum wage at €885 for full-time employment, which increases to €940 after six months of continuous employment, 20% of the workers, corresponding to 80,000, will benefit and that the salary of approximately 40,000 workers will increase up to 30%

“Despite individual imperfections or individual problems, it is a correct reform in the right direction” he continued.

EEE: Spending €10,252 per family on average as< /strong>

In relation to the Minimum Guaranteed Income, Mr. Kousios said that in 2021 20,250 families benefited with an expenditure of €207.6 million which corresponds to an average of €10,252 per family compared to public assistance in 2013 but an expenditure of €168 million .for 23,872 families, corresponding to an average of €7,037 per family.

Regarding the benefit policy, Mr. Kousios noted the reinstatement of four benefits that had been abolished under the previous government with an annual expenditure of €22.5 million, from which 28,500 families benefit, the increase to nine benefits with an annual expenditure of €61.4 million , but also the provision of ten new benefits that benefit 56,110 beneficiaries with an additional annual expenditure of €110.3 million.

In relation to low-income pensioners, Mr Kousios said that in 2021 the expenditure was €87.9 million for 3,802 low-income pensioners corresponding to €2,600 per person, while in 2013 the expenditure was €76.6 million for 60,360 people corresponding to to €1,270 per person on average. This is a 44% reduction in the number of low pensioners and a 105% increase in the average amount of financial assistance provided per person.

Steady reduction in unemployment

Mr. Kousios also referred to the steady decrease in unemployment rates, citing data based on which the unemployment rate from 16.1% in 2014 fell to 6.7% in the first half of 2022.

He also pointed out that unemployment between of young people aged 15 – 24 fell from 38.9% in 2013 to 17.1% in 2021, noting that we will continue to face problems with such a high percentage of young graduates. “We are doing studies to see how we will deal with this problem, to direct our young people to the right professions based on the programming we have as a state in general for the economy and business,” he said.

Also, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Labor said that the wage and job subsidy from 12 March 2022 to 31 December 2021 covered 43.9% of workers compared to 17.5% on average of the EU.

Source: cyprustimes.com

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