The Malta Independent 15 August 2020, Saturday

Employment

Owen Bonnici Friday, 31 July 2020, 07:14 Last update: about 15 days ago

This Government’s plan for our economy is on the right track, as I had the occasion to explain when this Tuesday in parliament I was answering Parliamentary Questions and delved into the employment sector and gave out information about this area, also showing the growing confidence in the economy of our country.

Latest statistics show that in contrast to many countries around the world, Malta is already on the successful path in the fight against unemployment resulting from the unprecedented situation brought about by COVID-19.

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I will replicate here the figures I gave out in last Tuesday’s session. At the end of June the number of people registering for employment decreased to 4,270 when compared to the 4,409 at the end of May. A decrease of 139 persons – which is a 3% decrease. In simpler terms, every day in June about 5 people found a job and did not need to continue registering for employment.

These statistics were echoed by the EU’s Labour Force Survey, confirming the decrease in unemployment figures. This survey, which come to its conclusions on far wider measurements, puts the decrease in those registering for employment at 181.

So it comes as no surprise when more Credit Rating Agencies continue to give very positive ratings to our economy. The latest, following that of Fitch earlier this month, was published by DBRS Morningstar, which affirmed Malta’s rating at A (High) with a Stable Outlook. Another positive credit rating report.

As the Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said, the re-affirmed Outlook reflects Malta’s strong economic and fiscal performance exhibited in recent years which has left the country relatively well placed to mitigate the risks posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

DBRS notes that the European Commission expects the negative impact of the pandemic on Malta’s GDP to be the smallest among the Euro Area member states in 2020 – and also expects the negative economic and fiscal impact of COVID-19 on the Maltese economy to be temporary as Malta is expected to record a strong rebound following the gradual opening of the economy and the Government’s support measures which have prevented substantial losses in employment.

The report states that the A (high) rating is supported by Malta’s moderate level of public debt, solid external position, and households’ strong financial position, amongst other factors. On also notes that the report says that once the pandemic effects subside, DBRS expects the public debt ratio to resume to its downward trajectory and to continue being one of the lowest in the European Union.

This excellent news is the result of the Government’s sound and prudent policies, and the Government intends to keep along this proven path.

Writing about unemployment, one has to remember that the number of people on the register is much lower than the historical average of our country. In March 2013, unemployment stood at 7,350, 72% more than the present figure. The highest ever unemployment rate registered by our country, post-EU membership was that of 8,197, in September 2004.

The Government is committed in continuing to take measures to reduce unemployment and regenerate the economy.

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This week we launched this year’s Culture Pass Programme, through which the government is investing €200,000, aimed at instigating creativity in children and adolescents through the appreciation of culture and heritage. Culture Pass is a joint initiative by Arts Council Malta, the Culture Directorate within the Ministry for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Governments ably led by Minister Jose A. Herrera and the Ministry of Education and Employment.

Culture Pass is another success, as over 86,000 students attended the programme since its initial launch in 2016.

With this initiative, every student from kinder to post-secondary education has the opportunity to experience a minimum of one artistic production a year produced by creative professionals and presented through a curated programme.

I was pleased to note a new addition to this this programme, with post-secondary students – attending institutes which provide education up to MQF Level 4 in cultural and artistic experiences who can now also participate in this Culture Pass – thus reaching a wider audience.

During the launch I stated that this initiative will give students access to Malta’s culture in an artistic format which will enhance the practice of informal learning. Through this initiative, our young ones will begin to appreciate different forms of artistic expression which will lead to more creative potential amongst the students.

Thanks to these cultural activities, we are helping our children and future generations to recognize that education is beyond the end-of-year exam paper but it is a journey we can enjoy together. It could also be that through such cultural activities, students will be able to explore their talents and artistic abilities in a manner that they pursue a similar career path. With this €200,000 investment we are encouraging people to come up with creative projects that are aimed at highlighting the importance of creativity within our educational institutions.

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Another success registered this week was the progress in works at Zejtun Secondary where we are not only modernising the building but adding much needed space for our educators and students alike. This project is seeing to making this old building into a modern, accessible and comfortable one.

With the first phase of this project completed during last year’s scholastic year, during the coming scholastic year we will see to the termination of the current phase – with the students and educators benefitting from a complete overhaul of their scholastic environment - a total investment of about €5 million.

As Minister for Education, but also as a proud father of a twelve-year-old, I want the best for our children, not only in their school environment, but in all of the various sectors of this field, including their welfare and well-being.

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