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Next Previous Unprecedented shortage of human resources HOME • INSIDER • CYPRUS • Unprecedented shortage of human resources
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At its peak is the problem of labor shortages for Cypriot companies, due to the pandemic and the growth rate of Cyprus. Insider opens the staff shortage file in Cyprus and records the positions of those directly affected.
The pre-existing problem of lack of human resources in Cyprus was highlighted in the most intense way by the pandemic, which worsened the situation, especially in the tourism sector. Officials and professionals in the sector see the granting of work permits to third-country nationals and asylum seekers as the only solution, while after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the issue of meeting the needs by employing Ukrainian refugees is also on the table.
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The problem of lack of human resources in some areas, especially in technical professions, existed even before the outbreak of the pandemic, despite timeless efforts to meet needs. The pandemic also created opportunities which in turn brought the need for unskilled staff in areas such as distribution (due to the transition from physical sales to digital). At the same time, in the pandemic, a large number of European citizens were repatriated, due to the constraints or new opportunities they found, especially in Central European countries, where there was a need for human resources.
The above, together with the increase of beds in tourism, the development of Forex companies, the de-icing of projects, which stopped the pandemic, such as the Limassol casino and the development of Cyprus in general, led to the current problem, he explained to Insider the Director of Labor Relations & amp; OEB Social Policy, Lena Panagiotou, noting that, without the pandemic, the problem might have been the same but in a different size, since it would have been addressed more gradually.
According to Ms. Panagiotou, for the tourism sector, which is facing the biggest problem, there will be needs to cover more than 7,000 jobs, in case all the hotels open normally. There is a great need for technical professions which are mainly related to similar work in the construction industry (eg carpentry and metallurgy). In addition, there is a big problem for nursing staff, with the private sector having coverage needs of more than 250 jobs. The retail sector (distribution, warehouses) also has high staffing needs.
These are positions which, as he told us, can hardly be filled by Cypriots, as proven, they no longer exist. available unemployment, as evidenced by the low turnout in recent unemployed interviews – only one third of the unemployed from the hotel sector attended the interviews.
Despite the fact that the hotel, catering and retail sectors are covered by specialized legislation and very specific employment conditions, the seven-day work base seems to be a deterrent to attracting staff. In order to address the problem, OEB considers that permits should be granted and the right to work of third-country nationals (students) and asylum seekers, who are allowed to work only in a limited number of positions and in specific sectors, should be extended to all sectors. economic activity. “It is not the solution but it is a way to reduce the problem,” Ms. Panagiotou told us. In the long run, OEB has consistent recommendations, considering that ways must be found to connect education with the real needs of the labor market.
will affect the companies themselves but also the economy in general. & nbsp;
For his part, the Director of the Labor Relations Department of CCCI, Emilios Michael, told us that the growth rate of Cyprus has caused a lack of human resources in many professions, especially in the hotel industry, and that companies' requests for third-party staff must be met. countries, as there is no potential available from Cyprus or EU countries to survive.
At this point he wanted to clarify that reports of cheap labor from third countries are untrue, as, as he said, foreign workers have higher costs for employers. He explained that in order to obtain a foreign employment license, employers must present his contract, which is required to include the terms of employment that Cypriots have, with employers shouldering the costs of transportation, as well as accommodation and food. of the foreign worker.
Mr. & nbsp; Michael expressed his optimism that after the disappointing picture in the staffing days for the hotel units, the Minister of Labor will open the window for hiring staff from third countries, expressing the hope that this will happen before April 1. Otherwise we will get to the point of having tourism but not having hotel units to accommodate it, as he stressed, clarifying that today students from third countries are allowed to work only as kitchen assistants and cleaners and not as waitresses or in other places. After two years of severe crisis, there is a prospect for economic growth, Mr. Mikhail told us, noting that tourist bookings until the invasion of Ukraine had reached the level of 2019, ie before pre-pandemic.
The problem in hotels is particularly big, as the lack of human resources and specifically in positions such as waiters, kitchen and reception assistants and waitresses, affects almost all hotel units. According to the General Manager of the Pancyprian Hoteliers Association (PASYXE), Filokypros Rousounidis, this is a pan-European and global problem in the hotel sector, with EU countries recording the lack of human resources in the main challenges facing their hotels. with the pandemic and the Ukrainian. Citing the examples of France and Spain, he added to Insider that, in cases such as a pandemic or a war, the tourism industry is the first to be affected to the greatest extent.
As he explained, the gap in Cyprus was created due to the pandemic, which opened the door of return for many Europeans to their countries, given that the problem exists in other countries and therefore European workers have the opportunity to be employed in their home countries, in a period that the cost of living in Cyprus is increased.
At the same time, a small portion of our compatriots who worked in the tourism industry, due to the uncertainty in the industry and the big blow it received, preferred to turn to other sectors of the economy, which are not affected as much as hotels in times like the pandemic. & nbsp; & nbsp;
“We believe that there are thousands of vacancies to be filled and it is very important that this is done as soon as possible,” he said. “We exhausted all available ways to hire Cypriots and Europeans in our hotels before the start of the summer season,” said Mr. Rousounidis, referring to the interviews of unemployed people, which had a disappointing result. The last solution, which for us is not the best possible because it is both time consuming and costly, is the import of foreign labor from third countries where and when the need arises and in accordance with the provisions of the laws, noted the General Manager of PASYXE, explaining that in this way the units will be staffed, even with a temporary solution, which will allow them to meet the requirements and expectations of tourists who will choose Cyprus for their vacation.
Referring to the importance of this year, he told us that it is transitional for the tourism industry of the place, that many, competing to us, countries will be relocated for tourism this year and that we must meet the challenge, as otherwise we will have negative consequences for in the coming years, in terms of tourism inflows, which will affect both public finances and people already working in industry. “Every day that passes makes the situation more difficult,” Mr. Rousounidis warned, calling for immediate solutions, as, as he noted, some markets, such as Great Britain, seem to open even from mid-March.
Regarding the lack of staff in hotels and the consequences for the tourism industry from the Ukrainian, the General Manager of PASYXE was clear saying that, there is no issue to reduce the needs for staff, as, he added, even in cases of reduced tourist inflows The needs of a hotel unit remain the same and are not affected, due to its 24-hour operation.
According to the General Director of the Association of Tourism Enterprises of Cyprus, Chrysaimili Psilogeni, after the last meeting of the Advisory Technical Committee, which consists of representatives of the Ministry of Labor, employers' associations and trade unions and while the recruitment interview process had preceded in hotels in Paphos and Limassol, it has been decided to grant licenses to hotels for the employment of staff from third countries and now the Minister of Labor is called to define what these hotels will be, as well as the number of licenses that will be granted to each hotel.
At the same time, Ms. Psilogeni referred to the window that the EU opened for the employment of Ukrainian refugees, after its decision to grant temporary protection to those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Under the “temporary protection” regime, Ukrainian citizens will have a residence permit in the EU, and therefore in Cyprus, and access to education, health care and the labor market, avoiding the time-consuming asylum application process. This scheme will be valid for one year, with the possibility of extension for a plus one more year (a total of three years). Certainly, we do not know how many of them will come to Cyprus, she noted.
Regarding the impact that the war in Ukraine will have on the tourist inflows of Cyprus, he wanted to clarify that any reduction in tourists does not change the data and the needs for staff of the hotels, which need a certain number of workforce, either they work with their fullness or with their lowest. “It's hard to make up for the blow, but efforts are being made,” he added. & Nbsp;
We have exhausted all the margins, with efforts for employment of local staff, community and students, so the suggestion is to allow, under certain conditions, employment of staff from third countries without this endangering the jobs that concern Cypriots and community, he told us from For his part, the general secretary of the Association of Leisure Center Owners (PASIKA), Fanos Leventis, added that, after the invasion of Ukraine, the situation is changing.
“If we do not manage to replenish the number of tourists we may lose from Russia and Ukraine & nbsp; we will have to think and manage in a different way the issue of staff required in the industry “, said Mr. Leventis, explaining that this may mean reduced staffing needs or delayed staffing needs. The Undersecretary of Tourism is trying to make up for lost ground by opening up to other markets and giving incentives to airlines, he went on to say that Cyprus could employ Ukrainian refugees.
What PASIKA wants, as he said, is for the hotel industry and the leisure center industry to be able to offer high quality services, as, as he admitted, the lack of staff and the employment of people with reduced experience affects the level of services offered by leisure industry. & nbsp;
Asked what is the number of staff that the leisure centers need for their needs, he explained that a specific number can not be given, since most leisure center owners prefer to look for themselves, with ads, staff, than to state their needs in the Department of Labor. The problem for the leisure centers is big, however, since, “as long as there is a problem in the hotel industry, it draws staff from the leisure centers” while, as the City of Dreams Mediterranean added, it will absorb a very large number of staff, which comes from their own space.
“The problem in our sector is timeless and when we return to normalcy it will be bigger,” said Nikos Vassiliou, President of the Association of Entertainment Center Owners, focusing on the lack of staff in the kitchen and customer service.
He believes that, as in Greece, the Greek expatriates from Ukraine and specifically from Mariupol should be used, as they could become excellent staff for Cyprus, due to the fact that they speak Greek, but they are also educated. This is something he himself confirmed, through a visit he had made to Mariupol, after which some expatriates had come to Cyprus and were employed in some hotels.
As for political asylum seekers, he expressed the view that they should be exploited in the labor market, as is the case in countries such as Germany. At the same time, regarding the permits for specialized personnel, he said that they should be given immediately, while on the contrary, for auxiliary personnel, that locals should be used, the second option should be the expatriates from Ukraine and the other options should follow.
The Secretary General of SEC, Andreas Matsas, spoke about exaggeration, regarding the needs of companies in human resources, saying that the surrounding atmosphere does not meet the real needs and that it is for this reason, for the TEC, the issuance of employment licenses for staff from third countries should be the last resort.
The ECJ considers that the crisis in Ukraine “which creates new data and new risks in relation to the real needs that will exist in the coming period” should also be taken into account. Therefore, the Ministry of Tourism should also clarify what are their own indications for the tourism product “. & Nbsp;
About 50% of our tourism comes from Russia and Ukraine, the SEC notes, which, as it states, means that a significant number of these tourists will not come to Cyprus. The devaluation of the ruble and in general the conditions that have been created in connection with the unpredictability of the duration of the crisis are the factors that, according to Mr. Matsas, translate into the loss of a significant part of our tourism market.
He warned that we should not get to the point of creating jobs that would not be needed, with the SEC opposing the uncontrolled and unsubstantiated issuance of licenses, expressing fear of creating cheap labor conditions.
However, in cases where such permits will be granted, the TEC emphasizes that the provisions of the collective agreement and the legislation should be applied and that employees should not have been fired by the specific companies. “We are not demonizing the additional strengthening of the labor market,” Mr Matsas told us, adding that the aim is to provide assistance where there is a real need.