The influx of foreign workers in recent years was not without its challenges, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said on Wednesday. 

He was speaking at the launch of a document on challenges that need to be addressed by a new employment policy set to be unveiled later on in 2021. 

Before becoming minister at the end of 2020, Caruana had been a key player in the government’s push for the importation of foreign workers as part of the country’s economic strategy. 

Acknowledging people still associated him to this, Caruana said the growth of the economy was not without its challenges. 

“We have to admit that some challenges were also created as a result, namely in infrastructure, education and healthcare. These challenges must be identified and addressed,” Caruana said. 

He added, however, that foreign workers are still crucial to the economy’s strength. If all workers in the public sector are moved to the private sector, some 17,000 employees would still be needed, Caruana said. 

Meanwhile, the government has identified a number of key challenges that it aims to address. 

These are:

• Strengthening and sustaining growth of the female participation rate and persons with disabilities in the labour market;
• The reality of underemployment and other impacts of COVID-19;
• The need to up-skill and re-skill the Maltese workforce;
• Maltese low-skilled workers and opportunities and threats facing this sector;
• The lack of salary increases in specific employment areas, leading to deteriorating standards of living for workers;
• Third-country nationals (TCNs) and the downward pressure they put on salaries;
• The volume of TCN workers and the comparable increase in infrastructure, education, healthcare and housing needs;
• The demand of specific industries, primarily construction and tourism, for TCN workers;
• The demand of certain industries, such as finance, gaming and engineering for high-skilled workers; and
• Automation and other technological advancements and what this will bring to specific sectors.

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