Malta: latest working life developments Q2 2018

Concern about the rise in the number of foreign workers and a widening gender pay gap are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Malta in the second quarter of 2018.

Concern about rise in foreign workers

An influx of foreign workers in Malta has caused some unease among the Maltese population. The leader of the opposition, Adrian Delia, stated on 1 May that this could have a negative impact on the identity of Malta, and called for long-term planning in order to make sure that the Maltese cultural identity is retained.

At present there are 42,300 foreign workers in the country,1 representing 17% of the Maltese workforce. More than half (29,500) are EU nationals while 12,800 are from outside the EU. The sectors that tend to attract the most foreign workers are online gaming, financial services and pharmaceuticals; these relatively new industries in the Maltese labour market – which are contributing substantially to the robustness of the Maltese economy – offer highly paid jobs. However, the Maltese education system has not been able to produce enough personnel with the skills needed for these sectors.

While foreign workers may be taking up the highest paid jobs in Malta, they are also being employed in catering and construction, sectors which are no longer attractive to Maltese workers.

The chairperson of Jobsplus, the Maltese Public Employment Service provider connecting job seekers with employers, stated that the residual gap in the labour market, in terms of quantity and quality, is not likely to close in the near future. This means that the viability of the Maltese labour market will continue to depend on foreign workers.

The Maltese trade unions have adopted a neutral stance on this issue as they are finding it difficult to recruit members from the sectors where foreign workers are finding employment. Indeed, the substantial increase of workers in the Maltese labour market is not being reflected in trade union membership.

Gender pay gap widens

The latest Structure of Earnings Savings data released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) on Women’s Day 2018 revealed that between 2014 and 2016 the gender pay gap in Malta rose from 4.5% to 11%. 2 This data was presented on 29 April 2018 during a conference organised by the President’s Foundation for the Well-Being of Society, along with organisations such as empower – the platform for women’s organisations – the National Forum of Trade Unions, and the University of Malta’s Centre for Labour Studies,

The NSO pointed out that this gap varies between sectors. It is highest in the professional and scientific industries, at 23%, followed by 19% in the arts, entertainment, wholesale and retail industries. One of the factors identified as a cause for this widening gap is the increase in job mobility: women tend to be more cautious in moving to more demanding jobs, fearing that a change in work schedule might negatively affect family life. Moreover, head-hunting employers may target men rather than women. What may attenuate this gap is the high rate of female employment in the government sector, where pay scales are gender-neutral.

In his conference speech, the President of Malta urged participants to find innovative ways to address this issue.


The shortage of skills in demand in newer industries is likely to persist in the near future, as any relevant educational programme introduced to address the issue is likely to have a long gestation period. Such a programme would also need to address the skill requirements of ongoing changes in digital technology. The same argument holds true about the gender pay gap: in order to achieve equality, a cultural shift is needed.


1 TVM (2018), More than 42,300 foreign workers in Malta , 4 April.

2 NSO Malta (2018), International Women’s Day: 2018 , news release, No. 37, 7 March.

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