Answers provided by Maria Zachariou Dodou, PA.SY.DY
- Gender Equality is enshrined in the constitution, national action plans and a number of institutions to overlook and coordinate anti-discrimination policies
- However, little attention is paid to older women. Older women mainly benefit from provisions such as carers’ leave, survivor’s pensions and minimum income for women who have not contributed to any social protection scheme.
This issue is very important in Cyprus, gender equality and the prohibition of direct and indirect discrimination is enshrined in the constitution.
In order to monitor gender equality and equal opportunities, a number of Committees and other Bodies have been established in Cyprus. The most important of these are as follows:
- A Committee on equal opportunities for men and women was created within the Parliament
- The National Mechanism for women's rights under the Ministry of Justice and Public Order deals with women's issues and gender equality, including the introduction of gender mainstreaming in all national policies
- The Commissioner of Gender Equality, appointed by the President of the Republic, presides over the National Mechanism for Women's Rights.
- The Ombudsman (Commissioner for Administration) deals with and decides upon discrimination matters.
- The Gender Equality Committee in Employment and Vocational Training, under the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the relevant law.
- The Advisory Committee for the Prevention and Combating of Violence in the Family monitors the implementation of the relevant law and promotes the awareness on this issue.
- The Coordinating Multidisciplinary Group for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, chaired by the Minister of Interior, has, among others, the task to monitor the implementation of the law and the National Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons.
Moreover, the Cypriot Legislation has been harmonized with the Aquis Communitaire on the issue of Gender Equality. A number of National Action Plans and Strategies have been developed that either specifically address gender equality, or specific issues that directly relate to gender equality.
Several laws are protecting women's rights, such as the Protection of Maternity, the Violence in the Family, Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, Care leave, etc. The female employment rate is around 75%.
In the private sector, despite impressive changes in the last 15 years, there is a need of more comprehensive efforts in order to achieve more satisfactory results.
In addition to the above women in Cyprus enjoy privileges against the men, such as:
- No service in the army
- Widow pension from National Social Insurance Fund
- Social Pension for women who haven’t any contributions to the National Social Insurance Fund
- While long-term unemployment and unemployment of older workers is seen as a challenge, there is lack of capacity to address this.
- Some more focus is put in the quality of Public Employment Services and the promotion of life-long learning.
- There are neither schemes to support specifically older people in staring employment or self-employment
The labour market in Cyprus has shown some positive developments, although long-term unemployment (though being on a decreasing trend) remains a major challenge. The long term unemployment rate is 7.75% for men and 4.8% for women which is higher than the average EU which is 4.5 % and 4.8 % respectively, while the unemployment rate is 11% in 2017 showing a decrease to 9.5% in 2018. The higher rate of unemployment it is among the youth 24.7%
Targeting of long-term unemployed and older jobseekers is one of the CY Public Employment Service priorities. However, the CY Public Employment Service (PES) had serious setbacks due to inadequate capacity to respond to their extended tasks and increased demand for their services. Therefore, very recently, in order to increase its capacity, the CY PES hired 30 additional PES counsellors.
The CY Public Employment Services is in the process to update online facilities, to be used by employment counsellors, job-seekers, employers, and other stakeholders, which is to provide in a more effective and direct way to satisfy the demand for labour and assistance to the registered unemployed and vulnerable groups.
The Resource Development Authority implements programmes for training, job-placement for unemployed and the development of a system for obtaining qualifications. The programmes aim to substantially improve their knowledge and skills for productive integration or reintegration into employment and to enable them to engage in occupations where there is demand for skilled labour.
There is a schemes for provision of Incentives for hiring recipients of minimum Guarantee Income (MCI) combined with three-month training and incentives for organizing training programs for unemployed within companies
Increased youth unemployment and the drop of monthly wages due to the economic crisis has affected older persons’ chances to find a job. Nevertheless, there is a number of employers who clearly indicate a strong preference to older people for certain reasons including experience, sense of responsibility, attitude, professionalism, etc.
There is scheme in place to promote self-employment for Youth by subsidizing the investment cost of the business, but not for the age group of older people. This is in line with the main challenge identified by Public Employment Services, youth unemployment.
Through the Ministry of Education, a series of programs are offered free of charge to age 65plus to gain skills and knowledge in a wide range of domains which the can used accordingly for self-employment e.g. painting, several languages, Decoration, dancing. music, repairs, carpenter, etc.).
- Retirement is mandatory in the public sector; in the private sector, continuing beyond pension age depends on the agreement of the employer
- Lack of policies to allow older workers to combine work and care
- A national agency promotes life-long learning programmes in companies
In Public sector is compulsory to retire at the age of 65. In the private sector, one may continue working and continue to contribute to the social Insurance System in order to increase the pension level, if agreed with his/her employer and is still entitle of the pension.
There are no employment policies, to allow older workers to combine employment and care for relatives and there is a lack of care facilities for persons with family responsibilities
Regarding health and safety, workplaces are inspected by a competent authority. It is compulsory for all workplaces to contact and implement a health and safety programme in general, to ensure the safety of all employees
The Resource Development Authority implements Programmes for Training, Job Placement for unemployed and the development of a system for obtaining Qualifications. The programmes aim to improve the knowledge and skills for productive integration or reintegration into employment and to enable workers to engage in occupations where there is demand for skilled labour
Informal carers are eligible for all benefits provided to other workers with the support of the Trade Unions. However, there is a lack of policy to promote employment of family members for care of close relatives.
- Very old women have a higher risk of poverty, for the age group over 75 it is 36.3% for women compared to 21.8 % for men.
- Male widowers are disadvantaged, as they are not entitled to a survivors’ pension of their disease wives, contrary to female survivors
- Older persons in need for palliative care who receive Minimum guarantee Income or live with low pension and persons with disabilities are especially vulnerable as a result of the high cost for care
A National Programme Against Poverty is in place, with a target to reduce poverty risk from 23.3% to 19.3% by 2020. From 2015 to 2016, there was a decrease in the risk of poverty as measured by AROPE index (28.9 to 27.%) and Gini Index. The state provides social and care programs for services at local level and the MLN Competent Authority is implementing a State Aid Schemes.
Social Services provide for Subsidies to support the pension income of poor to employ informal careers or institutional care. This concerns people receiving the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) and covers home care, day care, 24 hours’ care, residential and respite care.
The state subsidises Local Authorities and NGOs to implement long term social programmes for the recipients of the Guaranteed Minimum Income, including the operation of houses for older people.
A national reference basket of goods and services exists to assess the cost of living in general. A salary and a pension adjustment is enacted every six months depending on the cost of living index.
Pension reforms address primarily the sustainability of the pension system and only in second place the adequacy
Pension adjustments are enacted every six months depending on the cost of living index. From the perspective of present pensioners, it is important to provide for the increase of minimum pension levels regardless of the contributions. From the perspective of future pensioners, the system should provide for increased contributions to the social insurance system in order to ensure higher pensions
The public debate is focused on the long term sustainability of the system and to a lesser extent on the adequacy