NICOSIA, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus urgently needs to employ foreign skilled workers to avoid the danger of stagnation of its economy, a business leader said on Tuesday.
The director of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), Christodoulos Angastiniotis, told state radio that Cypriot economy could not continue expanding without additional workforce.
"The economy has reached its capacity as far as skilled workforce is concerned. Lack of able hands is leading to possible bottlenecks as far as economic growth is concerned," Angastiniotis said.
He suggested that thousands of foreign students and asylum seekers who are currently sustained by government grants should be trained to meet urgent needs, most notably in the expanding tourism industry sector.
Angastiniotis was on a meeting of business organization leaders with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and ministers on Monday, at which ways to secure additional workforce were explored.
"We warned the government that the available workforce could not sustain any more the current rates of growth of 3.5 percent," he added.
He also said that the fact that 24,000 people are receiving a Guaranteed Minimum Income grant of several hundred euros a month is also a factor which discourages people to work.
People out of work receive 480 euros a month and an additional 240 euros for each person dependent on the beneficiary, such as a spouse or child out of work.
He explained that an estimated 3,500 people of those receiving the grant are able to work but they prefer not to, since they have an income for their basics. He suggested that they should be trained to get a job.
However, the government spokesman said that it was not proper to "victimize" beneficiaries of the grant by characterizing them as layabouts.
"The system has safeguards in place to ensure that people who do need assistance, will get it for a decent living," the spokesman said.
Business leaders also urged the government to regulate by law the right of strike in essential services, such as electricity, telecommunications and water.
But the government spokesman indicated that the authorities were not prepared to interfere with worker's rights, saying that a 2004 "gentlemen agreement" on industrial relations was adequate to avoid making bad use of the right to strike.
Despite the lack of workforce, latest data released on Tuesday by Eurostat showed that unemployment in April, 2019 fell to 6.9 percent, down from 7.2 percent in March.
This, according to officials, is explained by the fact that registered unemployed do not wish to work in sectors which face an acute shortage, such as hotels and construction.
Unemployment in Cyprus had topped 16 percent at the peak of the 2013 economic crisis that led to the bailout of the eastern Mediterranean island by the Eurogroup and the International Monetary Fund.