Non-Maltese make up over a quarter of the total labour force on the island, the employment agency JobsPlus says in its annual report.

The employment agency put the overall percentage of foreign workers in the labour market at 27.9% as of September last year.

This reflects the extent of the government’s policy to import non-Maltese nationals to make up for gaps in the local labour supply.

Employment of foreign nationals increased drastically- Jobsplus

The policy has seen the number of foreign workers in Malta shoot up from 9,500 in 2009 to around 67,000 a decade later. In the private sector alone in 2018, 30 per cent of employees were foreign nationals.

By the end of 2021, the number of employed foreign nationals across all sectors amounted to 77,825, JobsPlus says on its website.

“Since the joining of the Maltese Islands in the European Union, employment of foreign nationals increased drastically,” the agency says in a section titled ‘Foreign Nationals Employment Trends’.

In its annual report, JobsPlus says the increase in non-Maltese nationals has been reflected in employment positions across all sectors.

The gambling and betting sector came out as the top employer of foreign workers last year, with 58.6% of people in the industry being non-Maltese.

A 2019 paper by the Central Bank said this sector tends to rely on EU nationals, whereas industries like construction rely more on non-EU workers.

Nearly half construction workers are foreign

The construction industry ranked in third place, with 44.6% of its workforce made up of foreign nations in 2021.

This was just below the accommodation and food industry, where just under half the workers, 48.9%, are foreign.

JobsPlus said most sectors gravitate towards the 27.9% average, with the public sector having the least number of non-Maltese in its labour force at just 2.7%.

It has become “critical” for the economy to sustain the levels of foreign workers and to support the administrative processes needed for them, JobsPlus said.

JobsPlus chairperson Charmaine Cristiano Grech acknowledged in the annual report that staff shortages are still a “daily issue” for businesses and matching the right talent for the available jobs is also a challenge.

Last year, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana highlighted how falling fertility rates in Malta, resulting in fewer youngsters entering the workforce, means the government will not be doing away with its policy of facilitating the entry of foreign workers.

A new employment policy launched last October will better protect these workers, Caruana said, to stop them from being exploited, particularly by temporary working agencies that charge them exorbitant fees to move and settle in Malta.

The minister said one way to cut abuse was to directly enter into bilateral agreements with third countries. Migrant workers in the sector were found to be at a higher risk of workplace accidents and fatalities.

Malta’s workplace safety watchdog, the OHSA, said last month that migrant workers are a particularly vulnerable group in Maltese society when it comes to work safety.

The actual number of foreign workers in construction is likely higher than the official figure of 44 per cent, as the OHSA says it is a “well-known fact” that not all construction workers are officially registered with JobsPlus.

Top five nationalities

Italy – 10,038

Philippines – 6,031

India – 5,817

UK – 4,642

Serbia – 3,992

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