EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Working and employment conditions of migrant workers – Malta

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 30 May 2007



About
Country:
Malta
Author:
Christine Farrugia
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Studies regarding the working conditions of migrant workers in Malta are very limited since up to a few years ago Malta was still a country of emigration. The local debate about migrant workers tends to focus on illegal immigrants, an issue which is increasing in importance. Till October 2006, there were a total of 6,263 migrant workers, who are over represented in specific sectors and occupations for various reasons. While migrant workers officially have the same rights and working conditions as nationals, many of them tend to occupy low level jobs.

This Report intends to investigate the employment and working conditions of migrant workers, that is of persons who migrate from one country to another for any reasons and work as employees or self-employed in the country of destination. Clearly, migrants workers include both EU citizens and non-EU citizens moving from their country of origin to one of the countries covered by this study. In other words, you should consider both migration across EU member states, Bulgaria, Romania and Norway and (im)migration from outside this area. The general objective is to compare the employment and working conditions of non-nationals and nationals

Please stick as much as possible to the definition above. However, if this definition does not reflect an interest or the debate on migrants’ working conditions in your country, consider whether using a narrower (eg only non-EU citizens) or broader definition (eg also migrants who acquired your country’s nationality and “second generations”) would provide insights on the employment and working conditions of migrants workers or on the closely related issue of workplace discriminations based on ethnicity. In the latter case, you should report data and information on these narrower or broader groups, stating clearly the definition of migrants you are using and providing indications on how the employment and working conditions of such groups can approximate those of migrants workers as defined above.

This study aims to analyse quality of work and employment of migrants in the European Union, Bulgaria, Romania and Norway. In particular, it will cover:

  • The distribution of migrant workers, by gender, across sectors and occupations, with a view to identify possible concentrations and their reasons, such as skill shortages filled by migrants (like in healthcare), or difficulties in filling positions in some jobs with lower skilled roles.

  • The contractual relations of migrants

  • An assessment of working conditions of migrants.

  • Entry job positions, training and career opportunities.

Answers to this questionnaires should refer to data sources other than those already integrated in Eurostat data sets. Of course, this information will be included in the final report, but the authors will access these data sets directly, with a view to concentrate your efforts on less accessible sources. In practice, you should not refer to Population and Labour Force statistics provided by your national statistical service, as long as they are already included in the Eurostat data sets. This means that questions 2.1, 2.3 and 2.4 should be answered only if sources other that those already integrated in the Eurostat data sets are available and significant.

Before responding to this questionnaire, you may want to check at the following Eurostat web pages the presence and scope of your country’s data which are already available:

Population and social conditions, under:

  • Population and International migration and asylum;

  • Labour market.

General and regional statistics, under:

  • Regions and Migration statistics.

As a consequence, your answers should refer to any specific research or studies carried out by public or private bodies, selecting the most authoritative and relevant ones in terms of significance and/or coverage. Please, consider both quantitative and qualitative studies in order to cover the different issues addressed by the questionnaire. Qualitative data may replace or complement quantitative data. You will list such sources in Section 1. We are looking for national information on migrants’ working conditions based on validated sources. You will provide this information under Section 2. Please, keep into account that the questionnaire is quite open and leaves ample space for specific national input, with a view to provide a picture as complete as possible of the employment and working conditions of migrants workers and of the national debates on such issue in the countries covered by the present study. Section 3 gives room to illustrate national contexts and provide further information and comments on sources and on the presence/lack of data.

Of course, any information or analyses carried out by national statistical offices on Population or Labour Force data-sets which integrate or complement standard data should be covered (for instance, ad-hoc analyses on the labour market conditions of migrants workers recently released by a national statistical office should be included).

Please provide clear and complete references of data sources.

1. Sources of information on migrant workers

  1. Are there studies or analyses in your country which cover the employment and working conditions of migrant workers?

Due to lack of employment opportunities, up to a few years ago, Malta was a country from which people used to emigrate. Only recently did this picture change. Hence, studies, data and information about migrant workers are very limited and deriving mostly from the National Statistics Office (NSO). Indeed, all major organisations in the field reported that there are no studies or analyses covering the employment and working conditions of migrant workers. 

Thus most of the answers provided for this questionnaire derive from interviews with key persons working in the field carried out by the author.

If so, please specify for each of these sources:

  1. The type: 1) specific chapters in general working conditions’ surveys; 2) ad-hoc surveys on migrants’ working conditions; 3) case studies - ie studies of specific situations, such as on certain nationalities, local areas and the like - on migrants’ working conditions, 4) other relevant reports on migrants’ working conditions which have been regularly or recently published.

  2. the authors of such studies or analyses (national statistical office - only if distinct from regular surveys which are included in Eurostat data sets, like Labour Force Surveys -, labour inspectorates, bodies responsible for health and safety at the workplace, social security bodies, other public bodies, employers, trade unions and NGOs, universities or research institutes);

  3. the definition of migrant worker they use. Are migrant workers who acquired citizenship or “second generations” included in such definition?;

  4. at which level these studies are carried out (national, sector, regional, other); and

  5. present briefly the methodology and structure of such studies or analyses, including the scope and focus of the questions on migrant workers.

  6. If available, please provide links to relevant websites.

2. Information on migrant workers

Please present the results of the above mentioned studies and analyses. The questions below provide indications on the aspects we would like you to cover in your answers, if relevant and significant information are available. If the variables used in your sources do not match precisely the ones indicated below, use those available, providing a brief description if needed.

Questions 2.1, 2.3 and 2.4 should be answered only if sources other that those already integrated in the Eurostat data sets are available and significant (see the introductory section for the Eurostat web pages which should be consulted).

In each case, state clearly the source and, if available, provide relevant links.

Moreover, indicate whether data include illegal migration and, whenever possible, distinguish between legal and illegal migrants.

Regarding questions 2.1, 2.3 and 2.4 there are no other sources available apart from what is made available by the NSO, already integrated in Eurostat.

2.1 Migrant population (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  1. Total number (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

  2. As a percentage of total population (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

2.2 Illegal immigration (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

1. Please provide all data/estimates available concerning:

  1. Total number.

Table 1: Total Number of Illegal immigrants
Year Illegal immigrants
2000 24
2001 57
2002 1,686
2003 502
2004 1,388

Parliamentary Question No. 10251 (26/01/2005)

  1. Nationality.

Table 2: Top 10 nationalities of asylum applicants, by country of asylum, in Malta (including illegal or otherwise)
Nationalities of Asylum Applicants Number of Asylum Applicants
Eritrea 255
Sudan 243
Somalia 226
Cote d’Ivoire 92
Democratic Republic of Congo 54
Stateless 48
Nigeria 31
Liberia 29
Iraq 23
Ghana 20

European Council on refugees and Exiles (ECRE) 2005

  1. Distribution by sectors.

Data deriving from a parliamentary question (No. 19106; 23/05/2006) concerning the first four months of 2006 indicates that 63 persons were caught working without a legal permit. Of these, 35 were working in construction, 16 in catering, 5 in commerce, 4 in industry, and 3 in cleaning.

  1. Distribution by occupations.

While quantitative data is not available, it is evident that illegal migrants often work in elementary occupations.

  1. Please briefly illustrate the methodology used to collect/generate such data/estimates.

2.3 Migrant active population (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  1. Total number (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

  2. As a percentage of active population (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

  3. Employed (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

  4. October 2006, there were 6,263 migrant workers:

European Citizens 2092
Non-EU Citizens 3440
Refugees 115
Citizens under humanitarian protection 563
Non-EU Citizens married to EU Citizens 10
Asylum seekers 43
Total 6263

Parliamentary question No. 20966, 31/10/20061

  1. As a percentage of total employment (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

5% (7,712 out of 153,809). The data of the total working population was derived from the Labour Force Survey 246/2006.

  1. Specific rates of: participation, employment, unemployment (by gender, age, nationality, education level).

The only data available refers to the rate of unemployed migrants from other EU country which, in February 2005 was .07% (6 persons out of 8,094 registering unemployed) (NSO 56/2005).

  1. Do the above mentioned indicators vary significantly according with the nationality of migrant workers (for instance, a certain nationality is significantly more or less represented in active population or unemployment? If such variations exist, which are the reasons put forward to explain them?

Not available.

2.4 The distribution of migrant workers across sectors and occupations (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  1. Are migrant workers over- or under-represented in specific sectors or occupations? If so, specify which sectors and occupations. Please distinguish whenever relevant or possible between men and women.

Yes migrant workers are over -or under- represented in specific sectors and occupations. This is mainly influenced by the skills that these workers hold. Legal migrant workers who are third country nationals are generally over represented in highly skilled positions such as engineers, technicians and doctors.

Migrant workers, who are refugees, under humanitarian protection or asylum seekers and are automatically given a work permit, are usually over represented in low skilled and elementary jobs. A specific sector where such migrant workers are over represented is construction. Indeed, interviewees told us that many migrant workers under humanitarian protection work as cleaners and plasterers.

  1. What are the possible reasons of such over- or under-representation? Are specific skill shortages filled by migrants? Are there specific policies devised to attract migrant workers in certain sectors or occupations? Please distinguish whenever relevant or possible between men and women.

A specific skill shortage is indeed one of the reasons for such over- or under- representation. Third country nationals do not automatically get a work permit but the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) decides whether an employment license is issued for these persons. Often, only those that are highly skilled and/or have skills in demand are given a work permit. Hence, ETC targets the type of migrants that the country needs.

Other reasons for over representation in low skill and elementary jobs are that these migrant workers take up jobs that the nationals refuse, such as jobs in the construction industry. Furthermore, most of the migrants who are automatically given a work permits (including asylum seekers, refugees and those under humanitarian protection) have no trades, education or other necessary skills required to occupy higher occupations.

  1. Does the presence in the different sectors or occupations vary significantly according with the nationality of the migrant workers (for instance, a certain nationality is significantly more or less represented in cleaning, health, or in managerial position or in elementary occupations? If such variations exist, which are the reasons put forward to explain them?

Presence of non EU migrant workers does vary significantly in the different sectors according to nationality. This is often the case for employees who are refugees, under humanitarian protection or asylum seekers. As illustrated above in Table 1, most asylum seekers in Malta come from Eritrea. The majority of these people have good employment trades and are hard workers. They speak very good English and most also speak French. These qualities and skills make them more employable and therefore are easily employed in jobs where they can practice their trade. Indeed Eritreans are more represented in occupations such as electricians, mechanics, welders and spray painters. On the other hand, migrant workers coming from Somalia, tend to have no knowledge of any trade and do not show much ambition to work. Hence, most Somalians occupy elementary occupations such as cleaners and plasterers.

2.5 The contractual relations of migrants (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

  1. Extent of undeclared employment (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

Most persons who are automatically given a work permit are not in undeclared employment as they make use of their employment license and contribute to the economy. However, those that are under humanitarian protection or are asylum seekers, only get a work permit under certain conditions. For persons under humanitarian protection, a work license is issued, valid for only six months. Asylum seekers have to find a job and then their employer will apply for an employment license, which is terminated once the job is finished. Most of these asylum seekers and those under humanitarian protection prefer to work without a permit so they avoid paying tax, therefore most of them remain in undeclared employment.

  1. Employment status: self-employed with employees, self-employed without employees, employee (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

Most migrant workers occupy the employment status of employee. No figures are available.

  1. Type of contract: open-ended, fixed-term, temporary agency work (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

There is no one type of contract more common among migrant workers. It depends on the type of employment they are engaged in.

  1. Duration of contracts in case of temporary employment (average) (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

In case of temporary employment, duration usually depends on the nature of the job. For example, some are recruited in hotels and restaurants for the summer months while others are just employed for a 15 day job.

  1. Retention: employment with the same employer after 12 months (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

Since most asylum seekers and those under humanitarian protection do not intend to stay in Malta, they do not stay long in the same employment, as their intention is to save up some money and leave the country.

  1. Working hours: full-time, part-time, (men, women). As a reference, please provide the same indicators for nationals.

Data is not available.

  1. Diffusion of “second jobs” (men, women) and the professional status in the further job(s) (men, women).

Data is not available.

  1. Do the above mentioned dimensions vary significantly according with the nationality of the migrant workers (for instance, a certain nationality is significantly more or less represented in undeclared, work, self-employment, temporary employment and so on? If such variations exist, which are the reasons put forward to explain them?

Data is not available.

2.6 Working conditions of migrants (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

Please distinguish per nationality whenever relevant.

  1. Wage levels, compared with national workers;

When migrant workers obtain a work permit they are treated as normal employees. However, migrants with an automatic work permit usually have very low wages, often the minimum wage. One plausible reason for this situation is that these migrant workers do not have much information about their rights, the employment laws and regulations and the cost of their work in the local labour market.

On the other hand illegal migrants, with no work permit, are treated differently and are paid less for the same work carried out by national workers. This is mostly seen in the construction industry, where illegal migrants are employed on purpose to save money and get labour at a cheaper price, by having long working hours without getting paid for overtime.

  1. The incidence of low-paid jobs (that is, according to the OECD definition, jobs which pay less than two-third of the median wage), compared with national workers.

Data is not available.

  1. Working hours, compared with national workers:- average hours usually worked per week, including overtime;- average hours of overtime work per week;- diffusion of long working hours (more than 10 hours a day);- diffusion of work at unsocial hours (night, weekend);- diffusion of work on shifts;- for migrant workers having more than one job, average hours worked per week in such further jobs.

For migrant workers who get their work permit because of the specific skills they have, working hours and most other employment conditions are the same as for Maltese nationals. These migrant workers seem to be treated differently from those who are given an automatic work permit (usually with lower levels of education and skills) and who tend to have relatively lower employment conditions than the Maltese nationals.

Yet, blue collar migrant workers and others in low skill jobs and elementary occupations work on average more hours per week when compared to nationals. No precise numbers of hours are available.

  1. Exposure to risks and accidents at work:- work accident rates for migrant workers and, as a reference, for nationals;- sectors and occupations where risks of accidents for migrant workers are higher;- working conditions (vibration, noise, high/low temperatures etc.) in the three sectors where migrant workers are mostly present in your country.

While migrants working in the construction industry experience greater health and safety risks, precise quantitative data is not available.

  1. Health outcomes, work-related health problems and occupational illnesses:- occupational illness rates for migrant workers and, as a reference, for nationals;- sectors and occupations where risks of work-related health problems for migrant workers are higher.

Data is not available.

  1. Existence of information on risks, health and safety at the workplace in the national language of the migrants.If such information is present:i) what is the basis of this presence (law, collective bargaining, firm policy, other);ii) is it present in every sector or workplace? If no, please specify in which sectors and/or workplaces it is present;iii) are there any specific initiatives, including training, on health and safety at the workplace devised specifically for migrant workers? If yes, please specify the initiators and content of such initiatives and whether they are implemented using the language of the migrant workers.

No information exists on risks, health and safety at the workplace in the national language of migrant workers. However, the ETC is trying to raise awareness among migrant workers to get knowledge about their employment conditions. ETC is in contact with the open centres to inform and educate migrant workers that once they get hold of their work permit they have the same rights and conditions as the nationals. ETC is also trying to make its internet site more user friendly for these migrant workers by making it available in different languages.

  1. Individual disputes at the workplace which involve migrant workers and, as a reference, nationals.

Data is not available.

2.7 Level of education and occupational position: over-qualification and under-qualification (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

Please distinguish per nationality whenever relevant.

  1. The present job position of migrant workers appears to be adequate to their level of education? With reference to this aspect, what is the condition of nationals?

Present jobs of highly skilled migrant workers appear not to be adequate to their level of education. Most of these employees occupy jobs that they are over qualified for, such as an engineer occupying the post of a technician. However, the level of education varies significantly with nationality. Regularly, low skilled migrant workers who get an automatic work permit do occupy job positions that are adequate to their level of education.

2.8 Participation in training and possibilities for competence development (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

Please distinguish per nationality whenever relevant.

  1. What is the rate of participation to training during working time of migrant workers (average over the last 12 months) and, as a reference, of nationals?

No data is available regarding training of migrant workers during working time.

  1. Is the access to other possibilities of competence development (such as apprenticeship) of migrant workers equivalent to that of nationals?

Access to other possibilities of competence development for migrant workers is very limited. At times this is due to language barriers. However, if a person has the required skills and levels of education to further continue one’s studies, the opportunity does exist. Persons under humanitarian protection have the opportunity to attend secondary school; go to University or the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST). The number of migrants who do so is very small.

Career development (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

Please distinguish per nationality whenever relevant.

  1. Entry occupations and the pace of career development (compared with those of nationals).

Migrant workers who possess a work permit do not face many difficulties on the basis that they are foreigners. If a migrant worker possesses the required qualifications and experiences for a particular job he/she will have the same opportunity as any Maltese who possesses the same requirements. Indeed, skilled migrant workers have a normal career path. On the other hand, low skilled migrant employees find themselves in worse situations when compared to the nationals.

  1. Do migrant workers have access to career advancements on an equal basis with nationals?

Yes, migrant workers do have access to career advancements on an equal basis with nationals. There seems not to be discrimination between Maltese and foreign workers.

  1. Are there data/information on discrimination in careers between migrants and nationals? If yes, please provide a brief summary of the evidence.

No data/information on discrimination in careers between migrants and nationals is available.

2.9 Union representation and collective bargaining (including recent trends in the 2000-2005 period)

Please distinguish per nationality whenever relevant.

  1. Do migrant workers concentrate in non-union workplaces or in less-than-average unionised sectors? If yes, please provide some details.

Migrant workers, especially those who are under humanitarian protection do usually concentrate in non union workplaces, as this makes it easier for them to work without a work permit. Even when these migrant workers are abused from their employer they prefer not to ask for union assistance.

  1. migrant workers concentrate in workplaces or sectors where collective bargaining coverage is lower than average? If yes, please provide some details.

Data is not available.

  1. Union membership and presence among trade union representatives of migrant workers.

Data is not available.

2.11 Any other information on employment and working conditions of migrant workers which is relevant for your country. Please distinguish per nationality if relevant.

Indicative length of responses to Section 2: 1,700 words.

3. Commentary by the NC

Please provide your own comments on employment and working conditions of migrant workers in your country.

The ongoing debate about migrant workers in Malta tends to focus on illegal migrants. The influx of these immigrants from the African countries has in recent years been increasing to a proportion which is considered to be too high for a small island state with the highest population density in the world (over 1,000 per square kilometre). There seems to be a pervading fear, among workers and their representatives, that the employment of immigrants may have an adverse effect on the working conditions of the Maltese workers. On the other hand, there seems to be some anecdotal evidence that the construction industry and the hospitality sector would not thrive without the employment of immigrant workers. At the same time, elements of racism have started to be felt among the Maltese population. The negative perceptions of the Maltese towards illegal immigrants are also probably affecting the latter’s working conditions. On the other hand, legal migrants (including those from other EU countries) tend to face less problems in their working conditions. Unfortunately, very little data exists about the working conditions of migrants in Malta. Besides, this topic does not feature as an important item on the agenda of the Maltese Social partners.

Christine Farrugia,University of Malta

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