Is the Cyprus job market locked down?

What’s the state of the Cyprus job market today? We asked Katerina Andreou,  founder of HR innovate recruitment, to give us an update: What happened during the pandemic, and what’s happening as we emerge from it.

“If we go back to march 2020, when we had the first lockdown, essentially, it seized the whole market. And it was as if everybody went into shock collectively, as a community. Candidates and employers just didn’t know what to do. It was horrendous, and very destabilising for everybody.

When the first reaction came it was panic firing.  Companies wanted to cut costs quickly, and they started to let people go. So the job market became a very unsettled, very volatile, stormy environment, where people who had been in their positions for perhaps decades even were let go.

Now, suddenly, there was this indiscriminate pool of people that entered the job market. So whether you were older, younger, Greek-speaking, non-Greek speaking, whatever sector, everybody suddenly was in it together. And there was this collective panic and upset, and the unemployment figures started to go up. And we saw all the difficulties that companies and the government were facing to figure out how we were going to continue with the workforce, and so many of us being at home.”

That was the first hit, Andreou points out.  And it lasted for quite some time. But we are seeing some change now, she adds.

“What we saw, and it continues today is this: It’s kind of like being in stormy seas on the ocean. So we have periods of calm, which are very unsettling, because calm sometimes means zero movement, which is never good for the economy or the job market. You’ll have days where there isn’t much movement, either from candidates or clients, and the job market seems very quiet, and then it flips into action.”

Since May, last year, as Cyprus started the end of the first lockdown, people started to consciously digest, accept, and understand — there was this almost a grieving process — what we were now going to have to experience and learn to live with, both at work and at home as employers and employees, Andreou notes.

“After that people started to recognise that they needed to get moving, whatever happens. ‘We’ve got to get our heads around this, we have to live, we have to work.” and they realised quickly that the economy was never going to reboot, if we didn’t all get together and start making moves. So people did start hiring, HR departments started to function with budgets and payroll, the flux of candidates on the market began to consciously actively search for roles. So we had this up and down movement, which continues today, where it’s kind of busy and then quieter and then busy, some sectors firing on all cylinders, other sectors being quite stagnant.”

Now, Andreou says, we’re on the up, with this year being really reassuring. Okay, so we can say that the job market is now on the mend.

So, who is hiring? And whom are they hiring?

“There are two main sectors. The tech industry is the most active. Really zero change there. The candidates and employers in those sectors were and are already very used to seamless working remotely. They have the technology at hand, they were light years ahead of the rest of us in any sector. So they were acclimatised even as the pandemic first got started because of the shortage of tech talent globally, it never stopped. We were recruiting for tech talent the entire way through, and we remain inundated with vacancies for that industry, which includes fintech, maritime, health, etc. you name it.”

And then the other one is finance, including tax and audit. So when you look at forex, for example, or more recently funds, and definitely tax and audit, we saw very little change, and those sectors just continued. They may have gone through small blips in the beginning where they were, you know, slightly less busy than usual. But they’ve continued regardless, and there is still a huge demand in those sectors today.”

There’s a definite move to younger hires, Andreou says.

“What we’ve seen in across all these sectors, FX, finance, tax audit, and tech, is there’s been a move to hire more junior candidates, new grads even and mid-level. We’re getting less demand for C-level executives, and they’re investing more in young talent. Covid-19 hit companies hard. So in an effort to keep finances healthy in reduced cash flow situations, it made sense to hire a labour force that was slightly cheaper, but that was worth investing in. Unfortunately, it meant there were a lot of senior level people that were let go.”

Unfortunately, there are just not enough people with these skills, Andreou continues.

What we have globally, it’s not just Cyprus, is a shortage of tech talent. So we have a lot of computer science graduates. But what we need are people that are almost compulsive, talented programmers, they program for fun, they program as hobbies, they program for work. So we have a shortage of female tech programmers. And we have a shortage of tech programmers across the world anyway.

But Andreou thinks that prospects for Cyprus are good.

In Cyprus, we have this really neat situation, because of the nature of the island and all the perks of running a business here and the lower operating costs and us having double tax treaties and such things, we are actually the focus now for a lot of international huge companies that are going to set up

tech hubs here —  this is already happening. We have quite a few here. We have more coming. And these are big international entities that are going to bring so much investment and positives to our economy. I can’t stress that enough.

With consumer confidence returning as the vaccine rolls out, Andreou thinks that prospects are good for job hunters.

So I do think that now that we have the vaccine being rolled out, consumer confidence is on the rise again. We’re going to go from strength to strength. We have the tech sector growing, and other sectors like finance too. This new move to stimulate the funds sector is also attracting global interest.

What I’ve been saying to our team, is that we survived here. Now this year is going to be recovery. And then we’re all going to be scaling up. And I think that’s what we’ll see. 2122 is going to be key. We’re so resilient. So I have absolutely no doubt that we’re going to just continue on that trajectory.