The government’s employment agency received almost 16,000 applications from people outside the European Union wanting to work in Malta in the first five months of this year alone, Times of Malta has learned.

Between January and May 12,185 of the applications received were for work permits while 3,572 applications were for employment licences, Jobsplus head Clyde Caruana said.

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Employment licences are valid for up to six months while single residence work permits are valid for a year and can be renewed annually, Mr Caruana explained. 

During the same period last year, Jobsplus received 13,388 applications from foreigners wishing to work in Malta. Of these, 10,162 applications were for work permits and 3,226 were for employment licences.

There were almost 43,000 non-Maltese workers in Malta by June 2018, coming from both EU and non-EU countries, and Mr Caruana had previously said another 13,000 would be needed this year alone to keep up with the country’s economic growth.

According to figures published earlier this week, Malta’s population growth has risen to 493,559 in the past year.

Employment licences are valid for up to six months

Malta had the largest growth of any European Union member state, with a population growth of 36.8 per 1,000 residents.

Luxembourg came in second place with 19.6 per 1,000 residents, and Ireland was third with 15.2.

One of every seven people in Malta is now a foreigner, almost double the number in the EU. Eurostat revealed on Tuesday that 14 per cent of the people living in Malta are foreign, compared to just 7.8 per cent in the EU.

According to a parliamentary question published earlier this week, Jobsplus received 2,734 requests for employment licences from third-country nationals between January and April 2019. 

It approved 2,610 and refused 58 of these applications, Employment Minister Evarist Bartolo said.

Third country nationals, who are only allowed to reside in Malta for work purposes or if they possess refugee and humanitarian status, were given more than 10,500 work permits in 2017. 

This represents more than double the amount in 2013, when just over 5,000 applications had been granted.