The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

TMID Editorial: A changing society - Globalisation and nationalism

Wednesday, 24 April 2019, 11:10 Last update: about 5 months ago

We’ve come to a situation when, while taking a stroll on the Sliema and St Julian’s promenade, one comes across more people speaking a foreign language than people speaking in Maltese. It is perhaps more probable that one hears Maltese being spoken in Oxford Street in London than in Malta.

We’re exaggerating, of course, but we are using this hyperbole to show how Malta has dramatically changed in the last few years, mostly because of the boom we registered in employment opportunities which led to a regular influx of people from other countries – near and far – who have chosen to make Malta their home, at least temporarily.

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Employers will tell you that there are certain jobs that are being shunned by the Maltese. It is, for example, difficult to find waiters and waitresses who can communicate in our native language, and sometimes even in English, in restaurants and take-away outlets. Construction sites are full of foreign workers and this is indirectly confirmed when police notify the media of some accident – in most cases, the injured person is a foreigner. We mention these two sectors because they seem to have been the most affected by the recent developments, but we are sure that there are others in which this phenomenon has been experienced.

The more time passes, the more Malta becomes more cosmopolitan. Many of us who have been abroad know what it means to be in cities where the local population is outnumbered by foreign-looking and foreign-speaking people. In a way, Malta has become one huge cosmopolitan city.

The number of native Maltese, until now, is still higher than that of foreigners, but with the growing tourist industry – there are at least 50,000 tourists in Malta on any given day of the year – as well as the increase in the number of foreign workers, it will not take long for the balance to shift. Those of us with more years on their shoulders remember a time when foreign workers were a rarity and the presence of tourists relatively contained to a few pockets around the country – today, it is no longer so.

Figures provided by the National Statistics Office continue to show nearly full employment. The number of people registering for work keeps going down while the number of people in employment – both full-time and part-time – continues to grow. This means that employment opportunities continue to be created, and foreigners who have found it difficult to get a job in their own country are flying over to settle here.

This situation has its own negative effects, such as the rise of what is known as nationalism, or a radical loyalty to the nation-state. While patriotism and a sense of pride in one’s country is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, taking this to the extreme – where it tends to push away anything that is foreign – is not a concept that can be condoned.

Nationalism is the current that runs counter to globalisation, and what Malta is experiencing these days has been felt in other countries for decades. The level of hatred that has permeated in our society to whatever is alien keeps growing, and there is a risk that the matter will get out of hand.

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