The Malta Independent 20 April 2024, Saturday
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Malta registers lowest unemployment rate since EU accession

Malta Independent Thursday, 3 July 2014, 11:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

Increasing numbers of people looking for work last year may have seen Malta slip down the rankings, but a reversal of the trend this year means that the country’s unemployment rate in May stood at an enviable 5.7%, the third-lowest rate in the EU.

Eurostat figures – which are seasonally adjusted – suggest that the unemployment rate decreased dramatically in just one month: it was more than 1 percentage point higher in April, at 6.8%. The rate is the lowest ever registered in Malta since Eurostat included it in its unemployment statistics in January 2000: the previous low was 5.9%, which was recorded in March 2008.

Inevitably, such a result led the Maltese government to issue a statement, in which it took credit for the result through its “concrete and targeted plan towards economic growth which is creating employment.”

In its statement, the government pointed out that while the unemployment rate had increased from 6.3% in March 2013 – when it took office – to 6.6% in October, there had been a clear change since then, leading to a record low in May. It stressed that the statistics contradicted the “propaganda” of recent months.

Malta’s unemployment rate is less than half that of the 11.6% unemployment recorded in the 18-nation euro area, and is considerably lower than the 10.3% unemployment rate registered across the entire EU.

The sizeable gap between unemployment rates in Malta and the EU is not new: Malta has consistently been at the top end of the list. Nevertheless, there had been signs, over the past year or so, that Malta was being outperformed by its peers.

Until relatively recently, Malta’s ranking, as far as unemployment rates were concerned, was typically the fourth-lowest among the 27 – 28 since Croatia’s accession a year ago – EU member states.

But as the number of people registering for work increased, driving up the country’s unemployment rate, Malta’s ranking slipped to sixth in March, and seventh in April.

However, the strong decrease recorded in May has had an effect: Malta climbed four places up the list, overtaking the UK, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic to claim third place.

The lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria (4.7%) and neighbouring Germany (5.1%).

At the other end of the scale, unemployment rates remain highest – by a considerable margin over every other member state – in Greece (26.8%) and Spain (25.1%). The third-highest unemployment rate, registered in Croatia, was “only” 16.3%.

Unemployment rates have generally fallen when compared to May 2013, when the EU registered a rate of 10.9% and the euro area registered a rate of 12%. Back then, Malta’s unemployment rate stood at 6.3%, the fourth-lowest in the EU.

Number of registered unemployed falling since January

The Employment and Training Corporation’s figures on the number of registered unemployment suggest that a trend of rising unemployment was reversed at the start of this year, a trend that was also flagged in the statement issued by the government.

The latest ETC figures, published by the National Statistics Office last Monday, show that the number of people registering for work stood at 7,141 in May.

This was a modest decrease when compared to May 2013 – when 151 more people were officially looking for work – but this only provides part of the picture.

In fact, the number of registered unemployed had been rising steadily in 2013, and peaked at 7,789 people last January.

Since then, however, their number has fallen every month, to 7,753 in February, 7,644 in March, 7,291 in April and 7,141 in May.

Those registering for work in May 2014 are comprised of 5,441 men – 76.2% of the total – and 1,700 women. The largest share of men on the register sought occupations as crafts and related trade workers; women, on the other hand, mostly sought occupations classified as technicians and associate professionals.

While the total number of registered unemployed decreased between May 2013 and May 2014, the number of persons who have been registering for work for more than one year actually increased by 421, to 3,280. On the other hand, the number of those registering for less than 21 weeks declined by 366.

The number of persons with disability who are registering for work fell slightly, from 538 in May 2013 to 521 a year later. Men made up 82.5% of their total number.

A total of 6,773 people were registering for work under Part I of the unemployment register and are thus eligible for unemployment benefits: they include new job seekers who have left school, re-entrants into the labour markets, and those who have been made redundant by their former employers.

The remaining 475 people are registered under Part II: they include people dismissed from work due to disciplinary action, those who left work of their own free will, those who refused work or training opportunities and others who were struck off the register after an inspection by law enforcement personnel. 

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