The lack of specialised skills and talent in Malta’s work force is the main concern investors have about the island, a new survey has found.

Released on Wednesday, the Ernst & Young Attractiveness Survey found that three quarters of investors felt Malta was currently attractive to foreign investors.

Although the figure is still considered healthy, it is a drop of 4% over 2017.

Most respondents, 70%, said Malta should focus on developing education and skills to attract more investment and economic growth going forward.

Two thirds said the country ought to look at supporting high tech industries and innovation, while slightly less, 59%, said the country should support small and medium sized enterprises.

Some 40% said Malta should cut taxes, this was up from 28% the previous year. However, around 10% fewer respondents were concerned about a lack of investment in large scale infrastructure projects than in previous years.

Malta scored 44% on the stability and transparency of it’s political, legal, and regulatory environment – a considerable drop of 37% over the past two years.

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But it was the lack of skilled and qualified workers that respondents felt was a much broader concern.

Just shy of two thirds said they were not able to find and recruit specialised skilled employees. However, once on the books, 81% of respondents said they could hang on to these workers as the jobs market was limited.

This was so much of an issue in fact, that 40% said it was the lack of specialised skills that was stopping them from growing their business in Malta.

Malta, the survey predicts, is facing down the barrel of a transformation into a digital economy.

And, when the survey asked respondents where the government should focus it’s efforts to facilitate this change, the majority, 70%, said investment in technological infrastructure – such as 5G, was essential.

Half said the legal framework needed an overhaul, and 63% brought the focus back onto skills in the labour market.

What was the greatest risk holding investors back from further investment in the future? 57% said it was fears about Malta’s “talent shortage”.

Brexit meanwhile, was a concern for 19% – down 1% over 2017.

Despite this, 77% said the UK’s decision to leave the EU had no impact on their business operations in Malta to date.

Was Malta keeping up pace with regulatory changes in competing jurisdictions? Nearly four in five said yes, up 19% over 2017.

And, 56% said Malta’s legislative framework gave them a competitive advantage over other European and global markets – up 6%. Around a fifth said it did not, with the same amount unable to comment either way. 

What was the key sector driving Malta’s economic growth? According to the survey respondents, this was iGaming.

Two thirds said this industry was the main driving force of growth, down 7% over 2017.

Tourism and leisure, 48%, came in second, followed by payments and fintech, 45%.

At 33%, the real estate, infrastructure, and construction sector, often touted as a among the main pillars, came in fifth.

Respondents were also asked whether they had plans to expand their operations in Malta over the next year – 65% said yes.

And would they still be here in 10 years time? An unchanged 78% said they would.

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