The Malta Independent 13 December 2018, Thursday

Not everyone is benefiting from the economic boom, expert warns

Giulia Magri Thursday, 6 December 2018, 16:05 Last update: about 6 days ago

More than 80,000 people in Malta are dealing with situation of poverty. The economy is expanding at an increasing speed, yet not everyone is benefitting from this economic boom, Dr Josanne Cutajar, a senior lecturer at the Faculty for Social Wellbeing has warned.

Cutajar was speaking at a conference organized by the Anti-poverty Forum.

Referencing recent newspaper reports, she noted that the issue of poverty is much bigger than it is being portrayed.

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Whilst profit is increasing, wages are not, she said. This affects mostly those earning a median wage.

Cutajar said the Maltese minimum wage is not increasing at the same rate that the profit is.

European Commission reports on Malta have highlighted that early school leavers or those who lack education are at a higher risk of leading a life of poverty. Malta has the highest rate of students who do not continue education and a low number of graduates, when compared to the rest of Europe.

She said that statistics show that students who go to private schools do better than those who attend church or state schools, and that many times students attending those schools are at a higher risk of poverty.

Cutajar said that there is also a link between students who have ADHD and the social class they come from. Studies show that some children are born into poverty, she said.

Another report highlights the fact that children from a lower class family are at a disadvantage before even attending school, as linguistically they rank lower than children from middle class families. She said that many times we do not realise how many shapes poverty can take, for example when children have no areas in their neighbourhood where to play safely.

Living in areas where the quality of air is poor and the environment is lacking is another form of deprivation which can lead to illness and mental health issues. The lack of money security increases mental stress.

Caritas has said that the rate of seniors and pensioners who are at risk of poverty threshold is at 26% and that women pensioners are at a high risk of falling into poverty since they are dependent on their husbands’ pensions. Cutajar said that women who are in abusive relationships find it harder to leave since they cannot find any cheap housing on the markets.

She asked: “Why is it so difficult to have a wage which is enough for one not to depend on social benefits?”

Cutajar said that many times foreign workers are blamed for the increase in property prices and quality of life, yet more focus should be on the employers who do not pay sufficient wages and many times mistreat their employees.

She said the Maltese minimum wage is one of the lowest in the EU, and that something must be done about this as there is a difference between men, women and disabled employees since they are all being paid different wages.

Photo: Luke Zerafa

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