The Malta Independent 26 February 2024, Monday
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Dependence on foreign workers close to 30% in construction, communication sectors – CBM

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 19 November 2019, 09:26 Last update: about 5 years ago

Some sectors of the workforce in Malta are reliant on foreign workers, according to the Central Bank of Malta’s 2019 quarterly review.

The Malta Independent has already written about other aspects of this report, highlighting that it had confirmed that the rich are getting richer, while the poor and elderly are being left behind. The report however, also provides an outlook on the reliance on foreign workers by certain sectors.


Given Malta’s low unemployment rate, finding Maltese workers is becoming increasingly difficult.

The report highlights the dependence on migrant workers differs across sectors. In the arts, entertainment and recreation sector, 58.6% of the workforce is foreign. Also, 34.4% of the staff complement in professional and administrative support services are foreign nationals.

“Dependence on migrant workers is close to 30% in the construction and communication sectors. Furthermore, while the arts, entertainment and recreation sector tends to be reliant on EU nationals, the construction sector as well as the sector incorporating administrative support services tend to rely more on Third Country Nationals (TCNs).”

“The relatively high dependence on foreign nationals within these sectors does not mean that these have replaced Maltese nationals. Indeed, the number of jobs held by Maltese nationals has also increased over time, with increases being registered in most sectors.”

The report does highlight however, that the only sectors where employment of Maltese nationals has decreased are industry, construction and tourism. “The largest decline among Maltese nationals was registered in industry, which was largely a result of restructuring within public sector institutions in the ship repair, ship building, energy, water supply and waste management sectors. Decreases in employment of Maltese nationals in construction and tourism were more limited. Declines in these three sectors were more than offset by new job positions filled by Maltese nationals in services oriented sectors, in particular in the professional and administrative support sector, thus indicating that Maltese nationals have shifted into relatively higher skilled jobs.”

Data also shows that “the proliferation of TCNs is visible in most sectors, including health, professional and administrative support as well as in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector. Indeed, employment of foreign nationals, and of TCNs specifically, has shown the strongest increase in the professional and administrative support sector and not only increased in sectors characterised by relatively lower skill levels.”

Around 90% of foreign nationals are employed on a full-time basis, according to the Central Bank of Malta’s report.

Since Malta joined the European Union (EU), its population has been largely expanding through positive net migrant flows. “Surveys conducted with firms operating from Malta indicate that one of the main factors hindering production in recent years is the shortage of available labour force, the report noted. Often, firms state that they have tackled this problem by employing foreign nationals, as the supply of Maltese nationals has been exhausted. This is reflected in an increase in the share of foreign nationals among those employed from around 1.7% in 2002 to 22.5% in 2018.”

The number of foreign nationals within the Maltese labour market has increased significantly in recent years, the report reads, highlighting that according to Jobsplus, the number of foreign nationals in employment has increased from a low of 2,013 in 2000 to more than 55,000 in 2018. “Since 2007, the number of EU nationals in employment has consistently outnumbered the number of third-country nationals (TCNs), with the former constituting 62% of all foreign employees in Malta in 2018.”

“In most years net migrant flows in Malta’s employment were predominantly driven by inward migration of EU nationals. However, in 2018 the net migration of TCNs was almost double that of EU nationals. The number of TCNs in Malta rose from almost 14,000 in 2017 to around 21,000 in 2018, whereas the number of EU nationals increased from around 30,000 to more than 34,000 persons.”

The increase in employment in the EU and downward trajectory in unemployment in recent years in Europe is likely to have slowed down the flow of migrants from EU countries to Malta, thus requiring more labour from third countries, the report highlights.

“In response to such development, a subsidiary legislation, in force since 2017 in terms of the Immigration Act, introduced simplified procedures for the issue, amendment and renewal of residence and work permits to TCNs.”

A decomposition of foreign workers by nationality reveals that over 9,000 Italian nationals were employed in Malta in 2018, equivalent to 27.3% of EU workers. The number of Italian nationals participating in the Maltese labour market has increased rapidly since the global financial crisis, as these stood at just above 500 employees in 2008. At over 5,000 employees, the United Kingdom (UK) is the second largest country of origin. Bulgaria ranked third among EU countries of origin. The Philippines and Serbia were the most important third countries of origin, with each providing more than 3,500 employees. Reliance on Indian nationals has also increased significantly. There were around 2,400 Indian nationals employed in Malta at the end of 2018. Overall, nationals from the Philippines, Serbia and India accounted for around 47.7% of all TCNs working in Malta last year, the report highlights.

“Around 90% of foreign nationals are employed on a full-time basis, although the number of foreigners engaged on a part-time basis has also increased strongly in recent years. It is also notable that the share of foreigners employed on a full-time basis decreased progressively until 2014, but has returned to an upward path during the high growth period 2015 -2018.”

Furthermore, the net flow of foreign nationals engaged on a full-time basis has been increasing almost uninterruptedly since 2010, it notes.

The report found that Third Country Nationals (TCNs) have a higher probability of being employed in elementary occupations. Whereas Maltese and other EU nationals have a higher probability of being employed in more advanced positions. The probability of a TCN being employed in an elementary position was 33.8% in 2018, whereas that of EU and Maltese nationals was 8.2% and 13.9%, respectively. In contrast, the probabilities of an EU national being employed in a managerial or professional position are 13.2% and 16.9% respectively, with the corresponding probabilities for TCNs standing at 4.7% and 8.0%. Also, 8.2% and 18.5% of Maltese nationals engaged within the Maltese labour market are employed in managerial and professional positions respectively.

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