The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

Labour markets

Alfred Sant Monday, 21 January 2019, 07:57 Last update: about 4 months ago

The indications are that we do not have aunified labour market in Malta, with wage levels and employment conditions that impact “interactively” on each other.

Instead, the labour market is split into a number of sectors that are truly separate –  so that what happens in one of them hardly affects the others. However, generally speaking, tension has been rising in all sectors due to recruitment problems, given that the unemployment rate is so low.

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If I’m reading the situation well, this tension is strongest in those sectors that need digital and financial skills.Wage rates there have continued to climb. The movement of employees from job to job has accellerated.

Then there exist sectors with a relaxed and low productivity workforce, where job mobility is practically non-existent. Meanwhile other sectors are characterised by low pay, very precarious employment conditions and exploitation of immigrants.

These splits in the labour market probably account for why the average rise in the pay of workers as a whole has been relatively so low. 

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Maltese ironies

Having entered the grounds of Malta airport and as you drive towards the main entrance, you can see building works hidden behind a provisional wall to the left. The wall is covered with pictures of facades of old style townhouses that you find – or used to find –in village mainstreets that lead to the square which fronts the parish church.

The photos for this wall display are really well done and as pasted one by the other, give the impression that you are viewing one side of a Maltese-style street.

A foreign tourist will see this picture just before his/her departure. It is doubtful though where he/she would understand that this is a representation of a traditional Maltese street.

We have been, and still are, actively preoccupied with how to destroy such townhouses wherever they can be found in village cores. We are replacing them with modern flats piled up on garages.

It is a Maltese irony that foreigners are made to see a traditional street when it does not exist any more, just before they leave.

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A Chinese Columbus 

A small but very interesting exhibition was organized last week at theEuropean Parliament featuring the travelsto the West of the Chinese admiral Zheng He. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, he left with afleet of ships fron Nanjing, then China’s capital, well out to the east. He crossed the seas till he arrived at the eastern shores of Africa. He repeated this voyage seven times, ina navigational exploit that as far as is known, had never been achieved before.

Preparations made for Zheng He’s travels were impeccable. Impressive  human resources (including scientists taken along to study the locations where the expeditions dropped anchor) and material supplies were mobilised. The technological abilities of the Chinese sailors were much more extensive than those which almost a hundred years later, Christopher Colomus could marshall for his expeditions to “India”.

There is though one curious aspect to Zheng He’s explorations. After they were carried out, the Chinese seem to have decided that they did not need maintain contact with the peoples and countries they had visited. They considered it was better to retire within the confines of their own country.

 

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