CYPRUS: Gender pay gap narrows but inequalities persist

Despite improvements in gender equality over recent years, with the pay gap in Cyprus narrowing, statistics also reveal gender equality in the workplace has yet to be achieved.

From a 33% pay gap in 1994, Cyprus has made significant strides but has yet to erase inequalities between men and women when it comes not only to equal pay but also equal opportunities.

With a gender gap pay of 14% recorded in 2017, Cyprus is under the European average gap which stands at 16%.

Ranking somewhere in the middle among EU member states regarding equal pay, Cyprus stands above countries like Spain and France (15.1% and 15.4% respectively), but also above the UK which has a surprising 20.8% gender pay gap.

MPs and stakeholders argue the statistics do not provide the whole picture, which is one where Cypriot women are not treated as equals with their male coworkers.

Talking to the Financial Mirror, main opposition party AKEL MP Skevi Koukouma, said: Unfortunately data only presents a selection which offers only a static image of women’s presence in the workplace without the necessary comparisons made with the equivalent data regarding male employees.

Koukouma said the declining pay gap is not due to the increase in women’s earnings but because during the financial crisis men saw their salaries decline by a greater extent especially in the professional sectors where they have a stronger presence.

She added that just 50% of women are working according to the statistics, 15% are working part-time, while the equivalent percentage of men employed in a part-time job is 8.7%.

What’s more, the equivalent statistics for the previous year (2016) show that 16.5% of women were employed in part-time jobs, with the percentage of men employed part-time standing at 12.2%. This shows that more men were able to move to a full-time job within a year, a clear indication that women have more difficulties in being able to find full-time work.

Meanwhile, another 42% of women are working in low paid jobs such as clerks and sales, while just 2.1% are in a managerial position.

Koukouma was also critical of the government and self-proclaimed success story for the economy.

The harsh reality is somewhat different than they would like people to believe. Women continue to face the risk of poverty and social exclusion, are paid less for work of equal value, and there is also worsening domestic violence and violence against women.

Ruling DISY’s MP Annita Demetriou told the Financial Mirror that women are more prone to poverty than men as a result of not having equal opportunities at landing a decent paid job.

Limited financial independence of women creates the risk of poverty for men and the whole family.

This shows that men are more likely to be the main or sole ‘family protector’ in the household or have a low-income partner and unable to lift the family out of poverty in difficult times, said Demetriou.

Men should stay home

She said the structure of Cyprus society burdens women with bringing up the family, leaving them with a disadvantage when they set out to find a job.

Women should be offered support by the state in order to be able to reconcile their family and professional life.

Demetriou also noted that an obstacle for women to enter the workforce is the high cost of care centres, forcing one of the parents to stay at home to look after the children.

Usually the woman is the obvious choice. This should not be the case, there is no reason why a man could not stay home to take care of the children. However, unfortunately, the fact that women are paid less pushes the mother to decide to stay at home with the children.

She stressed that the matter should be approached holistically, with emphasis on education aiming to create a society of equal opportunities.

It is encouraging that the issue of equal opportunities and women’s participation at key power and decision-making centres is being re-tabled for discussion with Ursula von der Leyen’s election as the next European Commission President.

Cyprus Federation of Employers and Industrialists official Lena Panayiotou, said that addressing the issue of gender inequality and consequently of the gender pay gap, one must try and understand the cause of the problem.

The roots of the problem lay with the structure of the Cypriot society which is still a patriarchic one. It is seen as only natural that the mother should stay home and take care of the family’s offspring. As a result, women are more inclined to look for a part-time job, if they look for one at all, said Panayiotou.

She said the state should step in with a social coherence policy, which will allow women to be able to choose to have a career.

The competent authorities should look into ways of introducing all-day schooling on a mass scale while re-examining what public kindergartens offer families with young children.

Panayiotou said that despite snot eradicating gender inequalities in the workplace, including issues of equal pay and equal opportunities, Cyprus has come a long way, not only because of legislation but also work put in by stakeholders such as OEB and the Ministry of Labour.

Stakeholders have put in a lot of time and effort to promote best practices in companies active in Cyprus, rewarding businesses who chose to adopt a code of conduct which provides equal opportunities for men and women.

It is very encouraging and rewarding for us to see that more than 70 businesses have adopted such a code of conduct, with most businesses these days investing serious money in creating an equal opportunity environment.

Panayiotou argued that an economy based on people-centric services, such as tourism, those on the ground must have equal opportunities to make the best of their abilities and thrive in an equal opportunity landscape.

Source: The Financial Mirror