Cyprus

   

Social Policies

#28
Key Findings
With crisis-induced stress on its social system receding, Cyprus falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 28) with respect to social policies. Its score in this area has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

While education expenditures are high by EU standards, and attainment rates high, outcomes are comparatively poor. The rate of those at risk of poverty and exclusion has continued to decline, approaching pre-crisis levels. A guaranteed minimum-income program assists vulnerable groups.

A new national health service is expected to improve access to high-quality services, eliminating the exclusion of various groups from the public system. Largely unregulated private-sector services will continue to be offered in parallel. Migrant workers form a significant share of the labor force, but no comprehensive integration policy is in place.

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. Public employees fare better than private-sector workers in the pension system. A new regulatory framework is expected to improve the currently weak oversight of pension and insurance programs.

Education

#22

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 education in Cyprus is almost exclusively public; 80% of secondary students attend public schools. 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. Reforming education and solving chronic deficiencies remains a challenge. Reform processes initiated by a government are often overturned by their successors. Attaining agreement on reforms is very difficult, as it depends on powerful teachers unions, the involvement of the parliament and sometimes the agreement of parents associations. The implementation of executive decisions or new laws, such as revisions to the teacher appointment system and to semester exams in secondary schools, are often postponed and risk being canceled. Conciliatory talks between teachers unions and the ministry of education that followed a severe crisis in their relations in 2018 are ongoing.

Schooling from the pre-primary level to the age of 15 is compulsory. Kindergarten schooling is provided by public and communal authorities, while nurseries are mostly private. 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 depends on income criteria. 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, and data confirm, overqualification along with limited numbers of students in vocational education. Also, disciplines linked to innovation (ICT and STEM) attract only a small share of students. The Commission further notes that the very high expenditure on education (as a share of GDP) has not matched education outcomes, which are considered poor.

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

#22

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 from 25.2% in 2017 to 23.9% in 2018. This approaches the 2008 – pre-crisis – rate of 23.3%. The population share at risk of poverty fell slightly to 17.4% from 15.7%, in 2017. The Gini coefficient was 29.1% compared to 30.8% in 2017. Adjustments to the social-welfare system aim at identifying problems and providing support to vulnerable groups. Combating social exclusion focuses on poverty risk, participation in the labor market, child and youth assistance, and adapting the sectoral institutions and mechanisms in order to render them more responsive to existing or emerging needs.

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. A guaranteed minimum income introduced in 2014 has assisted the more vulnerable groups. Regarding the high rate of persons not in education, employment or training (NEET), the European Commission characterized the results of recent efforts to address the issue as “modest”.

The AROPE indicator for foreigners also improved in 2018, though it remains very high. It stood at 27.8% compared to 28.6% in 2017 for other EU nationals and 40% for non-EU citizens, compared to 21.1% for Cypriots. AROPE rates for persons over 65 improved compared to 2017 (23.5% compared to 24.6%) but remained higher than in 2016 (22.9%). Elderly women remain the group facing the highest risk: 25.9% in 2018 compared to 27.3% in 2017.

Citations:
1. At-risk-of-poverty indicators 2008-2018, Cyprus Statistics Service, 2019, https://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/cystat/statistics.nsf/All/7F87785CA7BE6AC4C225846600399F19?OpenDocument&sub=5&sel=1&e=&print
2. Eurostat, People at risk of poverty or social exclusion, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/refreshTableAction.do?tab=table&plugin=1&pcode=t2020_50&language=en

Health

#28

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 launch of a national health system (NHS, in Greek GESY) in June 2019 is expected to enable access to high-quality healthcare services. Healthcare in the public sector, in private clinics, and from individual doctors has until now been affected by deficiencies in the system and a lack of regulation. Along with the NHS various health-insurance schemes and private sector services will continue. Despite constraints and deficiencies in infrastructure and human resources, the quality of services offered by the public system is acknowledged by the World Health Organization to be high. 2017 data show a very low infant-mortality rate (1.3 per 1,000 births) and a high life expectancy at birth (80.0 for men and 84.1 for women). Preventive medicine is specifically promoted, with Cyprus ranking high worldwide with respect to expenditure in this area.

The NHS offers the opportunity for all contributors to benefit, putting an end to healthcare eligibility criteria introduced in 2013 that led to the exclusion of various groups. However, Cyprus should also address problems identified in a 2016 EU assessment, which noted that the private sector is unregulated with respect to prices, capacity and quality of care.

The major challenges ahead include securing adequate funding and the sustainability of a fully operational scheme, while also effectively addressing problems that emerged in the initial operation stages. There is also need for further actions, such as making hospitals and the whole system fully autonomous. Such a reform would constitute a proper response to criticism from private sector doctors, trade unions, employers associations and others, about the sustainability of the system and its potential exploitation by some doctors and patients.

Citations:
1. Nurses warn hospitals will turn into ‘poor relation’ of healthcare system, Cyprus Mail, 18 October 2019, https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/10/18/nurses-warn-hospitals-will-turn-into-poor-relation-of-healthcare-system/
2. Efforts ‘well underway’ for second phase of Gesy, minister says, Cyprus Mail, 24 September 2019, https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/09/24/efforts-well-underway-for-second-phase-of-gesy-minister-says/

Families

#32

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 services are very limited, as indicated among others, by the very low rate of children in formal childcare (20.8%, compared to a 30.3% EU average). Combining motherhood with employment is difficult and may be the reason for the rapidly declining birth rate (1.07 in 2017 compared to 1.37 in 2016). Nevertheless, 75% of women between 25 and 54 were employed in 2018 (73.5% in 2017). Compared to the average of the EU-28 (63.4%), the employment of women is a little higher (64.2%) in Cyprus. Younger children can be registered in public kindergarten based on the availability of limited places and other criteria. This forces families to seek childcare primarily in the private sector and in community centers supervised by the labor ministry.

Family members, mainly grandparents, offer childcare, which contributes to reducing the rate of child poverty. However, the EU warned that childcare costs have become less affordable for households. An additional burden for parents is the insufficiency of public-transportation infrastructure.

The establishment of full-day pre- and primary schools in many communities has clearly benefited families and its expansion would further 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 provides for 15 days of paternity leave, but there is need for the adoption of comprehensive policies. The primary need remains removing the dilemma of choosing between employment and childcare.

Citations:
1. European Commission: Semester Country specific Recommendations, Cyprus, 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/file_import/2019-european-semester-country-specific-recommendation-commission-recommendation-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
Improvements in living conditions continue. Citizens over 65 years of age have greatly benefited, though as a group they continue to face a higher risk of poverty. Cyprus’s ratio of pension expenditure to GDP, which until 2012 was the EU-27’s second lowest, has also improved.

A range of pension schemes places public employees in a better position than private sector workers. Retirement ages vary according to employment sector. Public employees 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 EU has expressed hope that a new regulatory framework adopted in 2019 will improve the currently inadequate system. The new framework should also strengthen the currently weak supervision of the insurance and pension schemes. Reforms to the social-insurance system that started in 2010 focused on the retirement age, contribution rates, allowances to specific groups, the introduction of a guaranteed minimum income (GMI) and other measures. These reforms have partially mitigated the economic crisis’s worst ills affecting vulnerable groups. Though they have benefited significantly from the GMI, pensioners, in particular women, remain vulnerable, with a high risk of poverty or social exclusion.

The European Commission noted in 2017 that the gender gap in pensions is the highest in the EU. It also noted a steep increase in inequality in 2018.

Citations:
1. European Commission, Semester Country Specific recommendations, Cyprus, 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/file_import/2019-european-semester-country-specific-recommendation-commission-recommendation-cyprus_en.pdf
2. Poverty and Social Exclusion Statistics 2008-2018, Cyprus Statistics Service, 2019, https://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/cystat/statistics.nsf/All/7F87785CA7BE6AC4C225846600399F19?OpenDocument&sub=5&sel=1&e=&print

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
Foreign labor in Cyprus increased by 9%, from 18.9% in 2018 to 20.6% in 2019, (12.6% other-EU and 8.0% third-country nationals). Radical changes in the composition of the population since 1989 were brought by an initial flow of foreign workers from southeast Asia, and central and eastern Europe, followed by other-EU nationals after 2004. Cyprus has needed to manage an increased influx of undocumented migrants in recent years. Comprehensive integration policies are still missing.

Despite pressures from the EU, the Council of Europe and NGOs, the level of compliance with European standards remains low. Officials adopt policies and rhetoric that create a negative climate. This not only impedes integration, it increases xenophobia. Poor performance persists on most relevant indicators, including labor market access, culture and education, family reunion and civil rights. The response to recommendations by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI report 2016) for changes to laws and practices and the adoption of a comprehensive plan for integration remains slow and inadequate. ECRI observed that non-nationals had experienced difficulties integrating in Cyprus.

In the framework of EU programs, local authorities are involved in integration projects. Laws on market access were loosened in 2019 for foreign students, but not for migrants. Blocking long-term labor market integration, the granting of only limited rights and time limits on working permits for non-EU citizens are factors that preclude migrants from obtaining long-term resident status. Improvements in employment rates also show an increase in the number of foreign workers in 2018. However, their risk of poverty and social exclusion remains very high: for non-EU citizens the risk in 2018 was 40.0% compared to 21.2% for Cypriots.


The implementation of recent policies regarding asylum-seekers – including the decisions to provide all children with an education as part of the existing compulsory education scheme and to facilitate family reunions – has been sluggish and plagued by various shortcomings Two reports by the Office of the Ombudsman in September 2019 concluded that procedures for family reunification and the improvement of living conditions remain problematic.

Inconsistencies in integration policies toward different groups are best illustrated by the granting of limited rights to non-EU migrants, while the authorities are simultaneously engaged in selling permanent residency and citizenship to wealthy so-called investors.

Citations:
1. Office of the Ombudsman, Report on the Handling of Applications for Family Reunion, September 2019, http://www.ombudsman.gov.cy/Ombudsman/Ombudsman.nsf/All/6F17320946D83045C22584890026D108/$file/ekthesi0001.pdf?OpenElement
2. Office of the Ombudsman, Report on the Living Conditions of Asylum-Seekers and Refugees, September 2019, http://www.ombudsman.gov.cy/Ombudsman/Ombudsman.nsf/All/4D199F6AB14F59B3C2258480002A86E3/$file/%CE%91_%CE%94_4_2019_%CE%91_%CE%A0_1658_2019_24092019.pdf?OpenElement

Safe Living

#24

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 generally considered a safe environment. A 2017 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 relatively vulnerable points are the border dividing the government-controlled areas and the Turkish-occupied north as well as sections of one of the British military bases that abut the north.
Cyprus is a trafficking destination for persons subjected to forced prostitution and labor. Cyprus is not part of the Schengen area. Incidents of serious crime, including a case of serial killings of women and children, showed that authorities handled the disappearance of “foreign persons,” in this case of domestic helpers, inadequately. 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. However, violations of the driving code (a large-scale offense) often leads to deaths. Illegal drug activity is comparatively low overall, but an increase in illegal drugs confiscated at entry points has been noted.

Citations:
1. Six arrested in massive drug bust in Limassol, KNEWS, 19 March 2019, https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/four-arrested-in-massive-drug-bust-in-limassol

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 in and contributes to development-cooperation programs to a limited extent, mainly within the context of its membership in major international organizations. Its policies are tied to that of the EU and materialized in the context of international-cooperation and bilateral agreements. A contributor to Unitaid, Cyprus participates in financing mechanisms for climate change; it also provides assistance for infrastructure development, social services, including health and human development, and environmental protection. Its official development assistance (ODA) amounted to 0.09% of GDP in 2015 with an ODA target set at 0.33% by 2015. No new data have been made available on the CyprusAid website since 2013.

Actions and policies do not appear to form part of a specific national strategy; rather, they take place primarily within existing international frameworks. An agenda-setting ambition in terms of pursuing specific initiatives of Cyprus’ own design is missing.

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