A new national employment policy aims to equip Maltese workers with the necessary skills to earn a better income while acknowledging the need to attract foreign labour.
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana unveiled the policy on Tuesday, at a press conference in which he emphasised the need to focus on education as a way of upskilling workers, rather than "buzzwords" such as "blockchain".
The policy's four main guiding principles are:
- Supporting individuals in acquiring the needed and industry-demanded skills for tomorrow’s world
- Empowering all workers to participate in the labour market
- Enabling employers to continue investing in business growth and employment
- Designing institutions of work that are responsive and that level the playing field for all workers to carry out their job with dignity.
Focus on improving skills
The policy document highlights how Malta’s employment rates are at an all-time high.
This means the focus must now shift towards improving work skills to allow them to earn higher incomes.
Youngsters spend an average of 16 years in education in Malta, while in Ireland the average stands at 20 years. Malta's business lobby made a public call earlier this year to increase the compulsory schooling age in Malta to 18.
Working for longer
Caruana said during a technical briefing that the policy seeks to incentivise people to spend longer in working life, through tax incentives and other benefits for those who are past retirement age.
The policy will also stimulate a discussion on whether continuous professional development should be mandatory for certain occupations.
Caruana said the policy seeks to get the message across that education pays.
We still need to import foreign workers
Caruana was the brains behind Malta's existing employment policy, which placed great emphasis on importing foreign workers to stimulate demand and drive economic growth.
He acknowledged last year that the country needed a new plan, saying that the current one had been "exhausted".
Malta's new employment policy will not do away with importing foreign workers, Caruana said on Tuesday, as fertility rates in the country were falling and fewer youngsters were therefore entering the workforce.
The new employment policy will provide better protection for these workers, Caruana said, to stop them from being exploited, particularly by temporary working agencies who charge them exorbitant fees to move and settle in Malta.
Caruana said one way to cut down on abuse was to directly enter into bilateral agreements with third countries.
What are the key policy recommendations?
- Launch a national skills census to capture details of worker skills
- Incentives for retired workers to offer training and mentorship programmes as their former place of employment or in trade schools
- Encouraging life-long learning, including discussions on mandatory continuous professional development
- Development of job disruption forecasts to understand which jobs will be disrupted by technological developments
- Fostering participation in the labour force through flexible working solutions by promoting family-friendly working options, including remote working
- Extending benefits such as tax incentives aimed at encouraging people past the retirement age to continue working
- Establishing a centralised internship and placement agency
- Due to envisaged labour shortages envisaged, the government will commence consultations to develop a national economic migration policy
- Tax credits for the creation of green jobs within the company
- Equivalence of overtime and part-time tax rates, to encourage people to work overtime rather than take on another part-time job
- Reducing seasonal employment in Gozo through the full credit of national insurance contributions
For institutions and other bodies:
- Developing and launching a regulatory and licensing framework for temporary work agencies, to crack down on exploitation of foreign temporary workers
- Supporting unions and workers in temporary labour migration programmes to exercise their freedom of association
- Collection and publication of more data on temporary labour migration programmes