The Malta Independent 25 April 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Foreign workers - Pensions are a right, not a gift

Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 10:18 Last update: about 4 months ago

The versions, as reported in yesterday’s papers, vary but there is an ambiguity that must be laid bare.

When he was speaking in Birkirkara on Sunday, Prime Minister Muscat spoke about economic growth and linked it to the quality of life.

The gist of what the PM said was that without foreign workers there would be no pensions.

What the prime minister was saying, as he has been saying these past weeks, is that economic growth depends, as he sees it, on allowing more foreigners to come and live in Malta.

In a way, he may be right, but he may also be wrong, very wrong.

For it is rather simplistic to think that if you increase the number of people living, and working, in Malta, ipso facto you get economic growth. For one has to factor in the additional costs incurred by the country to support these additional residents – health services, infrastructure, services in general, etc. Not to mention the additional pressure on accommodation.

Besides, we tend to speak of foreigners coming to work in Malta but we rarely differentiate between those who come to work in the high end jobs, such as gaming, and those who come to work in jobs that the Maltese have shown they do not want to do, from restaurant waiters to public cleaning.

So far, it is true, the mix of foreigners working in Malta seems to have been a sustainable one, and hence growth was registered. But if for any reason the mix was to change, we may not get this growth and the economy can suddenly appear to be lop-sided.

There are other issues that one must consider in this regard. We are speaking here of people who come to work here and who may leave after a certain period they have spent working here, not about such issues as citizenship and the like.

Even so, however, the country would do well to introduce certain safeguards, such as, for example, regarding the education of children, regarding compliance with the laws of the country not just with regards to public order but also with regards to, for instance, public cleansing. The laws are there and must be obeyed by all, regardless of nationality. Those who are not citizens are still duty-bound to obey the laws and persistent infringement should undermine the right of such persons to remain our guests.

But anyway, one must make one thing clear, whether the prime minister intended his words to be understood in one way or not, pension is a right, not a gift from anyone, least of all from government. A person who has, maybe worked his whole life, has a right to a pension after the end of his working life. It is enough that the current pensions have no relation to the wage one has enjoyed during working life and plunge a pensioner into immediate poverty.

It is unacceptable that somebody, in this case the prime minister, and according to one version of his speech on Sunday, says that if we want pensions we must accept free entry to foreigners. There are, or should be, no qualification to the rights of a person to a pension. No ifs and no buts.

 

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