Foreign workers have contributed significantly to both Malta's economic growth as well as the state of its public finances, a Central Bank report has found. 

The bank's Quarterly Review found evidence that foreign workers were paying more tax than before while using relatively fewer hospital and educational resources.

Foreign workers had also helped meet rising demand for labour, the report found, noting that, had it not been for immigration, "in the last eight years Malta's working age population would have declined by one per cent instead of rising by three per cent."  

Income tax and national insurance contributions have also been bolstered by foreign workers. While in 2000 foreign workers contributed just 2.4 per cent of all such revenue, in 2014 this share had risen to just over 10 per cent.

Revenue from direct taxes on foreign workers had shot up by nine times during the same period, the review found, while that from Maltese workers had doubled.

The report also lays bare job disparities among foreign workers, with EU workers on one end of the labour market and third-country nationals on the other. 

An EU worker is twice as likely to be a manager or clerical support worker than a Maltese one. A third-country national, on the other hand, is four and a half times more likely to be employed in an elementary occupation than the average Maltese.

Foreign workers have played a particularly important role in bolstering numbers in low-paying workplaces: while in 2004 foreign workers made up just 0.5 per cent of elementary workers, by 2014, that number had skyrocketed to 14.1 per cent. 

The size of Malta's foreign workforce has shot up in the past 15 years, and its composition has changed dramatically.  

While in 2000 there were just 900 EU citizens working in Malta, by 2014 approximately 15,500 such workers called Malta home. 

This huge increase more than offset a doubling in the number of third-country nationals during the same period. Before Malta joined the EU, they made up 63 per cent of all foreign workers. By 2014, their share had fallen to 28 per cent.

Importantly, the rise in foreign workers over the past decade has not come at Maltese workers' expense. Between 2010 and 2014 the rise in the number of employed Maltese was nearly double that observed between 2004 and 2008, the Central Bank review noted. 

The report also found that while some sectors, such as construction and tourism, had mainly turned to foreign workers since the 2009 downturn, others, such as the professional services sector, had increased their contingent of Maltese workers even further. 

 

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