The number of foreigners working in Malta has stalled for the first time since 2009, with the number at the end of 2020 being the same as that in the previous year.

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana confirmed there are about 67,500 foreign workers in the country, roughly the same number as in December 2019, when the number stood at 67,596.

Data compiled by Jobsplus, Malta’s employment agency, confirms this was the first time since at least 2009 that the number remained constant after years of increases.

In comments to Times of Malta, Caruana said the number of workers who left the country last year, driven mainly by the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, were mostly unregulated and, thus, these would not have featured in the statistics.

As head of the employment agency, Caruana had been behind the government’s policy of bringing in thousands of foreign workers.

Since the 2013 election, which saw the Labour Party return to government, the number of foreign workers shot up from below 20,000 that year to almost 70,000 in 2021.

The sharpest increase involved third-country nationals (TCNs) and was registered between 2018 and 2019, when the number soared by almost 10,000 to 30,895 from 21,115.

There were 13,824 TCNs working on the island in 2017.

Prior to 2016, the number of TCNs working in Malta had been roughly half that of EU nationals employed here. By 2019, however, the number of EU nationals surpassed that of TCNs by fewer than 5,000 workers.

Details on the foreign workers’ country of origin for 2020 are not yet available.

Launching a document on issues that need to be addressed by a new employment policy set to be unveiled this year, Caruana admitted the influx of foreign workers in recent years was not without its challenges.

The minister said there were hurdles in infrastructure, education and healthcare and these should now be “identified and addressed”.

He added, however, that foreign workers are still crucial to ensure a strong economy.

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