Factors motivating women in Malta to work

The Employment and Training Corporation conducted a study among women to assess their motivation to work and the conditions encouraging them to start or continue working. The study involved three surveys among employed, registered unemployed and economically inactive women. Among the conditions that would entice them to start working or retain their job, women preferred a combination of family-friendly measures, fiscal arrangements and good working conditions.

Background to study

At present, the government is aiming to increase Malta’s female employment rate, from 32.8% to 41% by 2010. In recent years, a number of policies and strategies have been introduced in an effort to reach this goal, such as the promotion of childcare services as well as the reduction of taxes and national insurance contributions.

The Employment and Training Corporation (ETC), as Malta’s public employment service, is also directly involved in this initiative through a variety of measures. A recent study carried out among women to assess their motivation to work and the conditions that would encourage them to take up or continue working forms part of the ETC’s gender equality programme. The study aims to raise awareness of gender equality in employment and to encourage employers to provide more and better working opportunities for women.

Survey methodology

The study consisted of three surveys carried out among employed, registered unemployed and economically inactive women. Samples of employed and of inactive women – that is, women who are not classified as employed or unemployed – were derived from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), while a random sample of registered unemployed women was obtained from administrative records held by ETC.

The study sought to examine the work aspirations of women by determining whether they wish to work and whether differences between categories of women can be identified. Furthermore, the study explored the conditions that respondents believe would most facilitate their entry into the labour market. The study questionnaire mainly consisted of close-ended questions based on a Likert scale – where respondents are required to specify their level of agreement to a statement – about the work-related attitudes of women, with an open-ended question about the use of childcare services.

Three separate telephone surveys were carried out. The first survey, with a response rate of 89.8% totalling 820 persons, comprised women who were not in full-time studies but were searching for employment. The second study consisted of all the employed women who were younger than 65 years and had participated in the LFS. This second sample had a response rate of 57.4% amounting to 792 persons. The response rate of the third survey, carried out among all unemployed women registered with ETC, was 86.7% which represented 665 persons.

The employed and unemployed women who participated in the surveys tended to be younger, mostly single, had fewer children and higher levels of education than the economically inactive women surveyed.

Women in the labour market

Due to family responsibilities, most women – especially on reaching childbearing years – tend to drop out of the labour market or opt for part-time work. The majority of part-time workers in Malta are women, often working in occupations characterised by unfavourable conditions, such as waitresses, bar tenders, cleaners and chambermaids. These jobs tend to be low paid and are labour intensive. In addition, most women tend to be employed in the public sector, in stereotypically female occupations in the healthcare, education and manufacturing sectors, and in low-ranking positions such as plant and machine operators.

Results of study

The project revealed that most women hold positive views regarding employment. The majority of employed women wish to continue working in the future, while those who are unemployed are eager to find a job. Nearly half of the economically inactive women in the sample also showed an interest in taking up a job. In general, when presented with a number of conditions that would encourage them to start working or retain their job, Maltese women tend to prefer a combination of family-friendly measures, fiscal arrangements and good working conditions. Some of these conditions include:

  • family-friendly working hours;
  • parental leave provision;
  • the possibility to telework from home;
  • good pay;
  • the opportunity for career advancement;
  • a reduction in national insurance contributions;
  • a system where the tax rate of a partner or spouse is not affected by the woman’s employment.

The study findings were not presented according to the three categories of women taking part in the survey. Overall, the study revealed that most women have traditional notions about their family obligations. It is a point of concern that these women feel obliged to give up their careers to take care of their children and elderly relatives. In fact, few women mentioned using childcare services in the past or intended to use such options in the future.


A holistic approach is needed to continue increasing women’s labour market participation. In order to come closer to the Lisbon Strategy targets of raising employment rates to 70% for men and 60% for women by 2010, this study suggests improving the working conditions of part-time workers, better vocational guidance for young women, better working conditions for female employees particularly in terms of career advancement, as well as fiscal measures that encourage both parents of young children to take up employment.


Borg, A. and Vella, M., Women and work: Findings from a study on the work aspirations of Maltese women (452Kb PDF), Employment and Training Corporation, 2007

Christine Farrugia, Centre for Labour Studies

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