The Malta Independent 4 August 2020, Tuesday

Nearly 50% of employers recruited foreigners over past 3 years; ministers highlight skills gap

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 20 July 2016, 10:41 Last update: about 5 years ago

The National Employee Skills survey has shown that over the past three years, 48% of employers recruited foreigners, while currently, 29% said that they currently employ foreigners on a full-time basis.

The survey was conducted through an online survey and telephone interviews, resulting in 671 valid responses. Data weighting was used due to different company sizes etc. It was conducted by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education, Malta Enterprise, Erasmus+ and Jobsplus.

46% said that most often, they recruited foreigners holding a university level qualification. Asked for their level of satisfaction with foreigners, most employers are very satisfied hiring both Maltese and foreign workers.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo explained that the hardest thing will be addressing the skills deficit and forecasting what skills would be needed in two to three years’ time“in order to ensure that our economic growth is not hampered by the lack of skilled persons”.

Minister Bartolo also spoke of the illusion, that having a qualified person who has a degree necessarily means he has the required skills for critical thinking, problem solving, working with others. “Unfortunately this is not always the case”.

“Most of these skills needed in the real world are not developed adequately in our education system which is still obsessed with formal examination. We are trying to change it but resistance is strong as we have always done things this way”.

“We need to enrich education with as much reality as possible, by this I mean the economic and social realities. If we don’t strengthen the living links between education and employment, as well as education and society, then education will be weak”.

“I’m not trying to bash education, but I am admitting the limits in education. He spoke of the need to provide positive educational experiences in education and also in the place of work. In order to work well, there shouldn’t be a split between an educational or training organisations and a working organisations. Whether you are in university, college or work, they must all be learning organisations. They all have their specific roles and limits, but there must be an ongoing relationship and we must not be satisfied with holding a conference once a year”.

“What is worrying, I believe, is that while we are providing tools to combine the worlds of education and work, yet we are still not using them”.

He believes that employers need to conduct employability audits of the educational curriculum. “We need their contribution to feed into the educational experience and we cannot afford curricula which is ten years behind”.

Economy Minister Chris Cardona agreed with the statement made by Minister Bartolo, that education must be contaminated with realities.

“At the heart of this study there is a desire for the worlds of education and those of economy and business to collide”.

“This survey will give us insight into skills issues, and will provide a different perspective from other labour market information, whilst offering a window into how employers deal with problems”.

“The survey raises questions for policy makers, such as how to solve one problem without creating another”.

“If skill shortages have the potential to be damaging to businesses, why do these skills deficiencies still exist? Have companies lost customers because of these deficiencies?” he asked.

“Minister Bartolo’s thrust on contamination is the only way forward. He skill gaps can mean heavier workloads, higher operating costs, and difficulties in introducing new work practices. We should look at softer skills like time-management”.

“We have a booming economy, with large scale projects in the pipeline, and it is vital to have the people needed to fill these roles. A skills shortage reduces competitiveness, productivity and hinders the Maltese economic reforms”.

“Right now, the latest Eurostat figures show that over the past three years, 20,000 jobs were created. These jobs are being created in the services sector, mostly in administrative, technical and professional fields. Other areas registering high-level of growth are health, education and financial services”.

Survey results

The survey found that most employees engaged with companies are professionals (16%), clerical support workers (14.5%) or technicians and associate professionals (14.2%)

It explained that over the past three years, 39.8% of respondents recruited staff without work experience directly or on completion of their studies. Most of these recruits completed University level (52.8%) or education through MCAST or a Further Education College (42.1%)

Two-thirds of respondents also said they employ female workers on a full-time basis while 35.8% employ female workers on a part-time basis. 48.9% employ between one and five women on a full-time basis.

The survey found that 20.9% of respondents use word of mouth in order to fill vacancies, while 19.9% use Jobsplus and 15.8% use social media. The mose vacancies recorded were for clerical support workers, with the lowest number of vacancies being for skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers.

Clerical support workers and for service and sale workers were found to have the highest absolute number of hard to fill vacancies, but as a share of vacancies, positions for agricultural, forestry and fishery workers rank at the top.

Recruitment difficulties

56.2% of respondents listed the main reason for hard to fill vacancies was the lack of applicants with the required skills. 43.7% of respondents cited potential recruits having the right attitude and personality as the main problem. Close to 38% of respondents alco cited a low number of applicants as a reason.

The main skills lacking in applicants for vacancies that are hard to fill were written communication skills, technical skills, problem solving skills and team working skills.

Skills considered as important by employers are oral communication skills (78.7%), team working skills (78.6%) English language skills (74.4%) and customer handling skills (72.3%).

The main consequence of a hard to fill vacancy is an increased workload for other staff, outsourcing for work, difficulty to meet customer service objectives and lost business or orders to competitors. In order to address these consequences, 40% of employers recruit non-Maltese nationals, close to 25% increase advertising and recruitment expenditure and 23.3% increase salaries.

Over the next 12 months, the highest increase in recruitment is expected to be of clerical support workers, service and sales workers and professionals, while the lowest increase in recruitment is expected to be in the elementary occupations, skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery occupations, and plant and machine operators and assemblers. As for the next three years, the highest demand will be for clerical support workers, service/sale workers, professionals and trade workers.

Turning to qualification requirements, just over 39% of respondents said that only basic level qualifications are required, and most occupations which require low MQF levels are services and sales, craft and related trade work, clerical support, and plant and machinery operators and assemblers.

33% of respondents expect their recruits to have at least MQF level four and five qualifications, and close to 27% of respondents stated that they expect their recruits to have at least a tertiary level qualification, in particular for managerial and professional occupations.


Voluntary resignations are the most common reason for termination (48.6%) while termination by probation came in second, with 13.6%. Out of the total of 2,873 terminations over the past three years, only 1,246 have been replaced.

Employers forecast that there will be 497 expected terminations over the next twelve months.

Skills levels and mismatches

When asked about the highest level of education achieved by their staff, 34% of employers stated that more than half of employees attained MQF level 4 qualifications. 13% of companies said more than half of their staff have MQF level five, and 16% of companies said more than half of their staff hold MQF level 6 qualifications.

Respondents to the survey also said that 6% of their employees are overqualified, while 8% are not fully proficient. Most overqualified staff are professionals and clerical support workers.


The most common types of skills cited by employers that require up-skilling were; planning and organising skills (17.9%), customer handling skills (16%), team-working skills (15.5%) and the ability to multi-task (12.7%).

38.8% of employers declared that they have provided on-the-job training in the past twelve months. 35.8% of respondents declared that they offer off-the-job training. Most training was found to take place in establishments employing two to nine persons

Only 3.9% of employers within the financial and information/communication sectors said they provide on-the-job training. Only 4% of employers in these sectors said they provide off-the-job training.

The survey found that 40% of the training provided by employers was not accredited, and that most employers stated they do not allocate an annual training budget.

The majority of employers (94.6%) said there should be more collaboration between education providers and employers, while only 19.3% of respondents stated that they participated in collaborative activities with educational institutions.



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