Cyprus

   

Social Policies

#27
Key Findings
With crisis-induced stress on its social system receding, Cyprus falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 27) with respect to social policies. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The rate of those at risk of poverty and exclusion has continued to decline, nearly reaching pre-crisis levels. Targeted assistance policies have helped people who have lost benefits, but the share of people not in education, employment or training is deemed critically high. A national health service is under construction, but progress has been impeded by private-sector doctors’ resistance.

Although the labor-force participation rate for women is high, underdeveloped family policies make it difficult for women to combine work with parenthood. Family networks help fill serious gaps in child care. Improved pension benefits have reduced elderly citizens’ risk of poverty, but public employees fare better than private-sector workers.

Migrant EU nationals form a significant share of the labor force, but no comprehensive integration policy is in place. While policies and official rhetoric impede migrant integration, the government actively offers citizenship to wealthy investors.

Education

#17

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
7
Primary and secondary education in Cyprus is mainly public. Tertiary education is provided domestically by both public and private institutions, while a significant number of students attend overseas educational institutions. High literacy rates (near 100% for youth), low drop-out rates and high upper-secondary attainment are indicative of a culture that places a high value on education. Reforms have been undertaken since the 1990s, but previous agendas were sometimes overturned when a new government took charge. Recent decisions resulted in the revision of the teacher appointment system, while the implementation of semester exams in secondary schools has been postponed until 2019. Following a severe crisis in their relationship, teachers unions and the ministry of education engaged in 2018 in talks that may lead to long-due reforms.

Schooling from the pre-primary level to the age of 15 is compulsory. Kindergarten facilities are provided by public and communal authorities, but mostly by private entities. Vocational schools, apprenticeship programs, and other education and professional training schemes also exist, funded largely by public authorities in addition to educational institutions and other organizations. Tertiary-level students in public and private institutions receive a modest allowance, the provision of which is subject to income since 2012. While public education is free, various education-related costs are paid by parents.

A significant challenge for the system is providing education to immigrant children and adults to facilitate their social inclusion.

The European Commission observes overqualification along with limited choice in vocational education, while noting also that disciplines linked to innovation (e.g., STEM) are attracting only a small number of students. It further notes that the very high expenditure on education (as a share of GDP) has not matched education outcomes, which are considered poor. Outcomes evaluation is based on PISA results, though the overall education system requires more adequate evaluation tools and processes than a competition of 15-year-old students.

Citations:
1. European Commission, Education and Training Monitor, v. 2, October 2018, http://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/document-library-docs/volume-2-2018-education-and-training-monitor-country-analysis.pdf

Social Inclusion

#21

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
6
The AROPE indicator (at risk of poverty or social exclusion) further declined in 2017 from 27.7% down to 25.2%, though this remains above the pre-crisis rate of 23.3% in 2008. The population share at risk of poverty was 15.7%, a small improvement compared to 16.1% in 2016. The Gini coefficient was 30.8% compared to 32.1% in 2016. Frequent modifications to the social-welfare system aimed at identifying problems and providing support to vulnerable groups. Combating social exclusion focuses on the risk of poverty, participation in the labor market, assistance for children and young persons, and adaptation of the sector’s institutions and mechanisms when necessary.

The major policy actions adopted in 2013 continued into 2018: restructuring public aid, targeted allowances and benefits, public sector employment quotas for persons with disabilities, and housing programs for young families and other needy populations. Additional policies aimed to assist young people and other groups affected by benefits reductions or the loss of employment. A guaranteed minimum income was introduced in summer 2014. In 2018, the EU characterized the situation regarding the high rate of persons “not in education, employment or training” (NEET) as “critical.”

The AROPE indicator for foreigners continued in 2017 to be higher than locals. The rate was 28.6% (2016: 29.5%) for non-Cypriot EU nationals and much higher, 42.7% (2016: 44.4%) for non-EU citizens. AROPE rates for persons over 65 continued an upward trend, from 22.9% in 2016 to 24.6%. Elderly women are at a higher risk – 27.3% (2016: 25.8%) – than other groups.

Citations:
1. At-risk-of-poverty indicators 2008-2017, Cyprus Statistics Service, 2018, http://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/cystat/statistics.nsf/All/AC5A89D9938EBEF7C22578A00031BACA/$file/EUSILC-POVERTY-A2008_2017-EN-170918.xls?OpenElement

Health

#26

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
6
The potential for high-quality health care services in the public sector, in private clinics, and from individual doctors is being eroded by deficiencies in the system and a lack of regulation. The absence of a national health system has allowed various health-insurance schemes and private sector services to dominate. Constraints and deficiencies in infrastructure and human resources result in long queues, waiting lists, and delays. Notwithstanding, the quality of services offered by the public system is acknowledged by the World Health Organization to be high. Cyprus has a low infant-mortality rate (2.6 per 1,000 in 2016) and a high life expectancy at birth (80.3 for men and 84.7 for women in 2016). Preventive medicine is specifically promoted, with Cyprus ranking high worldwide with respect to expenditure in this area.

Reforms introduced in 2013 on criteria for accessing health care (e.g., level of income and property ownership) resulted in the exclusion of various groups. These criteria and the requirement to complete three years of contributions before benefiting from the system resulted in the exclusion from care of 20% to 25% of the population. According to a 2016 EU assessment, the private sector is unregulated in respect to prices, capacity, and quality of care, while coverage remains inadequate and ineffective.

Actions toward establishing a national health system (NHS) missed the target of full services by 2016. The ongoing implementation of measures provided by a 2017 NHS law are expected to allow for the implementation of a functioning system in 2019. However, reactions by private sector doctors, aiming to promote their pay scale demands and other issues, may delay progress.

Citations:
1. Joint report on health care services – Cyprus, EU 2016, http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/eeip/pdf/ip037bycountry/joint-report_cy_en.pdf
2. Private doctors’ demands over Gesy impossible says minister, Cyprus Mail, 29 October 2018 https://cyprus-mail.com/2018/10/29/private-doctors-demands-over-gesy-impossible-says-minister/

Families

#31

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
4
Family-support policies remain a challenge as they result, among others, in a low rate of children in formal childcare (20.8%, compared to a 30.3% EU average). Combining motherhood with employment is difficult, which may be one of the reasons for low birth rates (1.37% in 2016). However, the rate of employment among women between 25 and 54 is high (73.5% in 2017). Families seek care for children under five years old primarily in the private sector, and in a number of community centers under the supervision of the labor ministry.

Childcare commonly provided by family members, in particular grandparents, partly compensates for the lack of adequate state policies and facilities for families. Despite reducing the rate of child poverty, the EU notes a strong increase in children at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Parents with children attending kindergarten face additional expenses and need to provide transportation, because public-transportation infrastructure remains insufficient. The establishment of full-day pre- and primary schools in many communities clearly benefits families and its expansion would improve the overall situation.

Special allowances for multi-member families and the guaranteed minimum income may alleviate difficulties posed by the economic crisis. A 2017 law allows for 15 days of paternity leave, but the need requires the adoption of comprehensive policies. The real challenge is to remove the dilemma of choosing between employment and childcare.

Citations:
1. European Commission: Semester report, Cyprus, 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2018-european-semester-country-report-cyprus-en.pdf

Pensions

#22

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
5
A significant improvement in living conditions, in particular among citizens over 65 years of age, is visible in recent years. Elder groups no longer face a very high risk of poverty thanks to changes to various benefits schemes since 2012. This has improved Cyprus’s ratio of pension expenditure to GDP, which until 2012 was the EU-27’s second lowest.

A range of pension schemes places public employees in a better position than private sector workers. They benefit from retirement ages that vary according to employment sector as well as receive state and social-insurance pensions and a retirement bonus. Private sector employees have access to social-insurance benefits and, some, to provident-fund schemes. The provident fund system is fragmented, with rules greatly varying. The EU points to the need for a universal pillar that would cover both the public and private sectors. Reforms to the social-insurance system increased the retirement age, raised the rate of employers’ and employees’ contributions, provided special allowances to specific groups, and introduced a guaranteed minimum income (GMI). These measures have partially mitigated the economic crisis’s worst ills affecting vulnerable groups. Pensioners, in particular women, appear to have benefited significantly from the GMI, improving their at risk of poverty or social exclusion rate.

The European Commission noted in 2017 that the gender gap in pensions is the highest in the EU. It also expressed concerns about the high increase in inequality; it noted however a reverse trend in 2018.

Citations:
1. European Commission, Semester Economic Report, Cyprus, 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2018-european-semester-country-report-cyprus-en.pdf
2. At Risk of Poverty Statistics 2008-2017, Cyprus Statistics Service, 2018, http://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/cystat/statistics.nsf/All/AC5A89D9938EBEF7C22578A00031BACA/$file/EUSILC-POVERTY-A2008_2017-EN-170918.xls?OpenElement

Integration

#18

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
4
In 2018, the labor force in Cyprus included 11.4% other-EU and 7.5% third-country nationals, a small reduction from 2017. This points to radical changes that took place since 1989, when the government first started granting temporary working permits to migrant workers. The flow of workers came initially from Southeast Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, while EU nationals followed after 2004. Despite policy changes and some recent integration projects, Cyprus is missing a comprehensive integration program.

Pressure on Cyprus from the EU and the Council of Europe have so far not achieved compliance with European standards. In addition, policies and official rhetoric on the problems of migrant and irregular migrant flows to the republic, creates a climate that impedes integration. The country scores poorly on most indicators, including labor-market access, culture and education, family reunion, political participation and access to citizenship. In its latest report (2016), the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended changes to laws and practices and the adoption of a comprehensive plan for the integration of various groups in the country.

In the framework of EU programs, local authorities are involved in integration projects. However, laws do not favor market access nor the long-term labor-market integration of migrants. Foreign workers enjoy limited rights in many areas, with non-EU citizens facing time limits on working permits that preclude any ability to obtain long-term resident status. Despite generally higher employment rates, the number of foreign workers decreased in 2017, probably because of their very high at risk of poverty or social exclusion rate: for non-EU citizens the risk in 2017 was 43.5%.

Recent policies that aim to provide education to all children as part of a compulsory education scheme and timid family-reunification policies remain insufficient for achieving their goals. Criteria for family reunification, such as full-time employment, high fees and limited access to the labor market by dependents, are in practice nullifying the reunification policy.

There are inconsistencies in policies toward migrants and opportunities offered to non-EU citizens to participate in democratic life and attain citizenship. Ordinary migrants are offered very limited opportunities, while the authorities are engaged in a massive sale of citizenship to very wealthy investors, an issue that worries Brussels.

Citations:
1. State Department, Report on Human Rights for 2017, Cyprus, April 2018, https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2017&dlid=277153#wrapper
2. Council of Europe, ECRI Report on Cyprus, 2016, http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/ecri/Country-by-country/Cyprus/CYP-CbC-V-2016-018-ENG.pdf

Safe Living

#21

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Internal Security Policy
7
Cyprus is considered a safe environment. A World Health Organization survey found it the world’s safest for young people. Being an island state, it has developed adequate monitoring of the coast and of entry points. Its only relatively vulnerable points are the line dividing the government-controlled areas and the Turkish-occupied north, as well as the sections of the British bases that abut the north. Cyprus is not part of the Schengen area. Despite incidents of serious crime, including assaults and homicides, Cyprus remains safer than other EU countries. Burglaries and robberies are by far the most common crimes, while digital crime is gradually surfacing. Law enforcement is largely deficient in cases of minor wrongdoing (e.g., driving offenses and property damage from graffiti). Illegal drug activity is comparatively minimal overall, but an increase in illegal drugs confiscated at entry points has been noted.

Citations:
1. Cyprus the safest in the World for Young People, Cyprus Mail, 22 August 2017, http://cyprus-mail.com/2017/08/22/cyprus-safest-country-world-young-people

Global Inequalities

#37

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
4
Cyprus participates and contributes in development-cooperation programs within the context of its membership in major international organizations. Its main policy is tied to that of the EU as well as manifested through international-cooperation and bilateral agreements in various fields. Cyprus is a contributor to UNITAID, participates in financing mechanisms for climate change, and provides assistance for infrastructure development, social services including health and human development, and environmental protection. Its official development assistance (ODA) amounted to 0.1136% of GDP in 2012 with an ODA target set at 0.33% by 2015. The latest data available on the CyprusAid website date back to 2013.

Actions and policies do not appear to form part of a specific national strategy; rather, they take place primarily within existing international frameworks. The government appears to have little agenda-setting ambition in terms of pursuing specific initiatives of its own design.

Citations:
1. Data on ODA, Cyprus, http://www.cyprusaid.gov.cy/planning/cyprusaid.nsf/page11_en/page11_en
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