Cypriot families enjoy favourable conditions to balance their work and family lives. The child poverty rate is among the lowest in the EU (13.6% in 2010) and large families receive generous family transfers which significantly reduce their risk of poverty. However, at 1.46 children per woman, the fertility rate is lower than the EU average (1.6 children per woman).
In 2009 spending on financial benefits for families and children represented 2.2% of GDP, which was the same as the average expenditure in the EU and higher than in most other countries. The child benefit is paid to families with one or two children under 18 years of age once a year, at a rate of €421.
In 2011, larger families, in which some 24% of Cypriot children live, are paid monthly: €70 per month (approx. €842 per year) per child for three children, rising to €115 per month (approx. €1390 per year) per child for families with four or more children.
Provided that they have worked for at least six months, each of the parents is entitled to unpaid parental leave of up to 13 weeks. This is often considered too short: 72% of Cypriots would like parental leave to be extended, a measure supported on average by only 47% of the EU respondents to a Eurobarometer survey . Mothers are entitled to a total of 18 weeks maternity leave (starting at the latest two weeks before the expected date of the birth). For nine months after giving birth, a mother can reduce her working time by one hour per day (e.g. by taking a break) for the purpose of breastfeeding or childcare.
Maternity benefit is equal to 75% of the woman's income (up to €751 per week in 2011). The benefit is paid for 18 weeks, beginning between the 6th and 2nd week before childbirth. Parents also receive a maternity grant (a lump sum of €521).
With regard to childcare enrolment, according to Eurostat data for 2009, 24% of children under the age of three and 81% of children between the age of three and six are enrolled in formal day care programmes. Both figures are below the EU averages (28% and 84% respectively) and fall short of the Barcelona objectives for childcare provision. However as the family in Cyprus is still the core of the society and culture, grandparents attend to provide care and look after their grandchildren both when they are very young and after school.
In 2010 employment rates for mothers of children under six were higher than for women as a whole – 71.8% vs. 61.6% - and both are above the EU averages (58.9% vs. 58.5% respectively). The same pattern holds true for men, with 89.8% of fathers and 74.7% of men as a whole in employment (EU 86.5% vs. 70.1%). Women in Cyprus also tend to work longer hours per week than the EU average: 37.9 vs. 33.9. At 21% in 2010, the gender pay gap was markedly higher than the EU average of 16.4%. Part-time work is less popular than elsewhere in Europe (13% of women work part-time compared to 32.1% in the EU).
A study ‘Models of work-life balance and the demand for gender-based equality of opportunity – Social networks for work–life balance’ carried out as part of the EU EQUAL Programme showed that there is a great need for improved formal structures and childcare services. When asked who looks after their young children while they were at work, 38% of surveyed parents said their children were cared by a grandparent or other relatives, 29% explained that they leave them at home alone and 26% stated they leave the child(ren) with their spouse. Only 9% of the respondents said their children attend at a daytime nursery near their home, while 6% employed the services of a paid carer.
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2012.
To address insufficient childcare provision for young children, the Social Welfare Services (SWS) carried out a project “Expansion and Improvement of Care Services for the Children, the Elderly, the Disabled and Other Dependants”, which was co-financed by 50% by the European Social Fund, whereby care for pre-school children whose mothers faced difficulties entering the labour market was subsidised.
The initiative included the promotion of flexible operating hours for care facilities and included the launching of a study on open care services in Cyprus. As a result 31 care programmes for children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and other dependants, were funded. The programmes were implemented through a collaboration between local authorities and non-governmental organisations.
In addition, SWS launched a study on the role of Local Authorities in the promotion of care policies for the reconciliation of family and working life. The goal of the initiative was to help women to enter, re-enter or stay in the labour market.