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Emigration of Cypriots abroad has often been on a large enough scale to affect population growth. As a demographic phenomenon, it has been viewed as an extension of rural to urban movement. At times when a future in the towns was unpromising for those intent on escaping rural poverty, there was the additional safety value of emigration. Cypriots frequently availed themselves of this opportunity instead of living in crowded slums in their country's towns, and their relatively small numbers meant that recipient countries could easily absorb them. Although there was emigration as early as the 1930s, there is no available data before 1955.

The periods of greatest emigration were 1955-59, the 1960s, and 1974-79, times of political instability and socioeconomic insecurity when future prospects appeared bleak and unpromising. Between 1955 and 1959, the period of anticolonial struggle, 29,000 Cypriots, 5 percent of the population, left the island. In the 1960s, there were periods of economic recession and intercommunal strife, and net emigration has been estimated at about 50,000, or 8.5 percent of the island's 1970 population. Most of these emigrants were young males from rural areas and usually unemployed. Some five percent were factory workers and only 5 percent were university graduates. Britain headed the list of destinations, taking more than 75 percent of the emigrants in 1953-73; another 8 to 10 percent went to Australia, and about 5 percent to North America.

During the early 1970s, economic development, social progress, and relative political stability contributed to a slackening of emigration. At the same time, there was immigration, so that the net immigration was 3,200 in 1970-73. This trend ended with the 1974 invasion. During the 1974-79 period, 51,500 persons left as emigrants, and another 15,000 became temporary workers abroad. The new wave of emigrants had Australia as the most common destination (35 percent), followed by North America, Greece, and Britain. Many professionals and technical workers emigrated, and for the first time more women than men left. By the early 1980s, the government had rebuilt the economy, and the 30 percent unemployment rate of 1974 was replaced by a labor shortage. As a result, only about 2,000 Cypriots emigrated during the years 1980-86, while 2,850 returned to the island.

Although emigration slowed to a trickle during the 1980s, so many Cypriots had left the island in preceding decades that in the late 1980s an estimated 300,000 Cypriots (a number equivalent to 60 percent of the population of the Republic of Cyprus) resided in seven foreign countries.

Data as of January 1991