The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

TMID Editorial: Population problems

Wednesday, 3 August 2022, 09:58 Last update: about 11 days ago

The results of the 2021 census carried out by the Statistics Office confirmed what we have all known, or suspected, for years.

Malta’s population has increased substantially, rising by 25% over a decade, which is the largest ever jump since records have been kept.

This little rock now accommodates nearly 520,000 people. We have become even more densely-populated than we were.

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There are two issues that such a rapid population increase brings about.

The first is space. We have all realised that our beaches are more crowded, our roads have more cars, and our building areas have expanded, horizontally and vertically. The pressure on the infrastructure has grown exponentially. The need for energy and water continues to rise. The stress on what is left of our environment has multiplied.

We have tried to adjust, but we are still not equipped well enough. Our roads cannot take the amount of cars that are on them, and the widening of existing stretches and building of flyovers and underpasses are only as good as the next roundabout or narrowing of main arteries. Our buildings are becoming uglier in our haste to meet requirements. The energy we produce is not sufficient and yet we need more. The burden on our health and education system is getting bigger too. Increase in demand could also lead to inflation.

Let us remember that, apart from the 520,000 living in Malta, at any time of year there are between 40,000 and 60,000 tourists on the island too, maybe more, taking the overall population closer to 600,000.

The second issue is that a good chunk of this increase is not because we are living longer and having more children. It’s because the number of foreigners living here has jumped by nearly 100,000 to 115,000 in just 10 years. In 2011, the number of foreigners was one in 20, now it is one in five.

This is largely as a result of the policies adopted by the Labour government since 2013. It’s also because many Maltese are avoiding certain jobs which are now predominantly occupied by people who have settled down here from abroad.

Apart from the additional weight they place on the infrastructure, their presence in large numbers is leading to an increase in racist sentiment, particularly when they form their own communities and, in some areas, are a bigger group when compared to the number of Maltese.

Many speak of integration and inclusion, but this is successful only if there is an effort from both ends. If the Maltese do not accept foreigners, they will remain aloof and suspicious. But if foreigners do not abide by our ways and at least try to learn our language, then they will find it harder to fit in. Our schools have a big part to play in this but, then again, it has become arduous for our educators too.

The government has, at times, belittled the over-population problem, making it seem that it is handling the matter in its stride.

But it’s not. Just imagine if, in 10 years’ time when the next census results are out, the population of residents in Malta – locals and foreigners – would have jumped by another 100,000.

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