Gender differences still prevail in Maltese labour market

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Data from the Maltese Labour Force Survey show that Malta’s female employment rate stands at 38.5%, rising by 2.2 percentage points between April to June 2007 and 2008. Despite this increase, Malta’s female employment rate is still the lowest among all of the EU Member States. Some 9.7% of all jobs in Malta are part-time positions, while 69% of all part-time workers are women. The largest proportion of working women is found in the education sector, while the highest share of working men can be found in manufacturing.

 

 


About the survey

The Maltese Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a household survey carried out regularly by the country’s National Statistics Office (NSO). The survey, which is based on internationally agreed concepts and definitions, is a major source of information concerning the labour market status of Malta’s working age population – that is, people aged 15 years and over. It derives data about employed and unemployed people, as well as the inactive population. The other major source of data about employment and unemployment in Malta is derived from the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC), Malta’s Public Employment Service. However, the latter is based on administrative data and does not conform to international definitions and standards.

The LFS is carried out on a random sample of 2,500 private households selected from the Household Register maintained by the NSO, ensuring a sampling rate of about 2%. It is a panel survey and is carried out on a quarterly basis. In a given survey, 1,250 households participate for the first time, while the other 1,250 households would have already participated in the previous survey. Thus, a selected household will participate twice in the survey. Data collection is carried out continuously throughout the 13 weeks of the quarter. Trained part-time interviewers are employed by the NSO to administer the survey through personal visits or by telephone. Each interviewer normally interviews about 20 households in the quarter. Labour force related information is derived from all household members aged 15 years and over. Where one or more household members aged 15 years and over are not present for the interview, another adult member is asked to answer for the absent member (proxy interview). This procedure is carried out in order to reduce the costs of having to carry out additional interviews at the same household.

The majority of the survey’s questions refer to a specific week. Various procedures are carried out to reduce non-sampling errors and increase the reliability of the results. Trained coders ensure that the data collected is in the right format. Subsequently, a random sample of the questionnaires is again reviewed by a senior NSO officer. In addition, the programme used to input data has in-built validations which are designed to reduce errors.

A news release with the general results of survey is published quarterly. Other data from the survey is published online – for instance, in other news releases – or can be obtained on request. This Survey Data Report focuses on Labour Survey Q2/2008 (87Kb PDF).

 

 


Overview of Maltese labour market

Malta has the lowest female employment rate of all the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries. This poses a huge challenge for the country in terms of reaching the Lisbon target of a 60% employment rate for women by 2010. As the findings in Table 1 show, between 2007 and 2008, the female employment rate rose from 36.3% to 38.5%, while the male employment rate decreased slightly from 73.5% to 71.6%. In spite of this increase for women, the employment gender gap in Malta remains high, with a marked difference of 33.1 percentage points between female and male employment. For such a small labour market, this is a considerable difference, which is also a key contributor to the country’s low overall employment rate.

Table 1: Employment rates in Malta, by age and sex, April–June 2007 and 2008
Age group Men (%) Women (%) Total (%)
April–June 2007 (revised)
15–24 years 48.1 42.4 45.3
25–54 years 90.9 42.8 67.4
55–64 years 45.9 10.8 28.2
Total 73.5 36.3 55.2
April–June 2008
15–24 years 44.1 44.6 44.3
25–54 years 89.6 45.8 68.2
55–64 years 44.5 12.2 28.0
Total 71.6 38.5 55.2

Note: Persons in employment (15–64 years) are shown as a percentage of the population of working age (15–64 years).

Source: LFS, 2007 and 2008

A total of 159,875 persons were in employment in April–June 2008. This amounts to an overall employment rate of 55.2%. Some 10,254 persons were unemployed in this period, while a further 174,619 persons were inactive. The vast majority of inactive persons were women.

Reasons for inactivity

As Table 2 shows, the LFS findings reveal that the majority of women (54.5%) who were not active in the labour market attributed this to personal or family reasons (LFS 2006). By contrast, very few men (3%) cited personal or family reasons for their absence from the labour market. This shows that traditional gender stereotypes are prevailing and that women still find it difficult to reconcile work and family responsibilities.

Table 2: Number and % of inactive persons, by reason for inactivity, April–June 2006
.Reason for inactivity .Men .Women .Total
Number % Number % Number %
Awaiting recall to work (persons temporarily laid off)
Own illness or disability 6,060 12.4 3,050 2.7 9,110 5.6
Personal or family responsibilities 1,470* 3.0 62,136 54.5 63,606 39.0
Education or training 12,736 26.1 14,774 12.9 27,510 16.9
Retirement 25,547 52.3 15,484 13.6 41,031 25.2
Belief that no work is available 167* 0.4 263* 0.2 430* 0.3
Other reasons 2,153 4.4 17,807 15.6 19,960 12.2
Has already found a job which will start at a later date 692* 1.4 539 0.5 1,231* 0.8

Note: * Denotes that the sample was underrepresented.

Source: LFS 2006 (2.8Mb PDF)

A recent report (43Kb PDF) issued by the European Commission shows that Malta has a low level of childcare provisions for children under three years of age. It should also be mentioned that the school opening hours in Malta are typically short and some primary schools finish as early as 13:30 each day. These short opening hours are not compatible with the typical working day and make it more difficult for mothers of school-aged children to maintain a full-time job. Pre or after-school services for working parents are practically non-existent in Malta and add to the pressures faced by dual earner families and single mothers. The incompatibility between standard working time and school opening hours may also force some mothers out of full-time employment.



Type of employment

In terms of types of employment contract, some 9.47% of all jobs (15,155 out of the total 159,875) in 2008 were part-time positions (see Table 3). Most of the part-time workers (69% or 10,455) were women. In addition, some 3,186 women were working full time with reduced hours compared with only 412 men. In fact, the sample of men working full time with reduced hours is underrepresented. This is partly due to the traditional division of domestic work, whereby more women than men opt to work reduced hours so that they can balance work and family responsibilities.

It should be noted that while workers in the public sector have the facility to work reduced hours, those in the private sector tend not to have this option; instead, mothers are expected to return to full-time employment after a short maternity leave of just 14 weeks. Both parents have a right to an additional three months’ parental leave. However, this is not paid leave and it is at the discretion of the employer when to grant this leave.

Table 3: Type of employment contract in main occupation, by sex, April–June 2007 and 2008
Type of employment contract .Men .Women .Total
Number % Number % Number %
April–June 2007 (revised)
Full-time job 102,465 95.9 38,199 75.0 140,664 89.2
Full-time job with reduced hours 209u 0.2 2,452 4.8 2,661 1.7
Part-time job 4,187 3.9 10,256 20.2 14,443 9.1
Total 106,861 100 50,907 100 157,768 100
April–June 2008
Full-time job 99,782 95.1 41,340 75.2 141,122 88.3
Full-time job with reduced hours 412u 0.4 3,186 5.8 3,598 2.2
Part-time job 4,700 4.5 10,455 19.0 15,155 9.5
Total 104,894 100 54,981 100 159,875 100

Notes: u = underrepresented due to small sample size. Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution. Absolute changes between one survey and another, smaller than 1,800 persons, may be due to a sampling error.

Source: LFS, 2007 and 2008

In terms of professional status, a large majority of working women (94%) are employees, while 4.1% are self-employed without employees, and a smaller proportion of 1.8% are in self-employment with employees, according to the 2008 LFS findings (Table 4). An additional 0.1% of women are family workers. While the majority of working men (83.6%) are also employees, a larger proportion of men are self-employed without employees (11%) or self-employed with employees (5.4%). No male family workers are reported for the 2007 and 2008 findings. These figures indicate that much still needs to be done to encourage women to opt for self-employment.

Table 4: Professional status of main occupation, by sex, April–June 2007 and 2008
Professional status .Men .Women .Total
Number % Number % Number %
April–June 2007 (revised)
Employee 88,823 83.1 46,755 91.9 135,578 85.9
Self-employed without employees 11,181 10.5 3,326 6.5 14,507 9.2
Self-employed with employees 6,857 6.4 771u 1.5 7,628 4.8
Family worker 55u 0.1 55u 0.1
Total 106,861 100 50,907 100 157,768 100
April–June 2008
Employee 87,695 83.6 51,696 94.0 139,391 87.2
Self-employed without employees 11,550 11.0 2,238 4.1 13,788 8.6
Self-employed with employees 5,649 5.4 1,008u 1.8 6,657 4.2
Family worker 39u 0.1 39u 0.0
Total 104,894 100 54,981 100 159,875 100

Note: u= underrepresented due to small sample size. Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution. Absolute changes between one survey and another, smaller than 1,800 persons, may be due to a sampling error.

Source: LFS, 2007 and 2008



Type of economic sector

With regard to the economic sector in which women and men work, the majority of working Maltese women (67.3%) work in the private sector, while 32.7% work in government departments and ministries, independent statutory bodies and public majority organisations (LFS, 2008). A slightly larger majority of men (72.3%) work in the private sector, while just 27.7% of men work in public entities.

Table 5: Total employed persons, by economic sector and sex, April–June 2007 and 2008
Economic sector .Men .Women .Total
Number % Number % Number %
April–June 2007 (revised)
Private 76,283 71.4 34,429 67.7 110,712 70.2
Public majority 2,214 2.1 1,134u 2.2 3,348 2.1
Independent statutory bodies 9,088 8.5 3,114 6.1 12,202 7.7
Government departments and ministries 19,276 18.0 12,230 24.0 31,506 20.0
Total 106,861 100 50,907 100 157,768 100
April–June 2008
Private 75,876 72.3 37,010 67.3 112,886 70.6
Public majority 2,372 2.3 721u 1.3 3,093 2.0
Independent statutory bodies 8,678 8.3 2,880 5.3 11,558 7.2
Government departments and ministries 17,968 17.1 14,370 26.1 32,338 20.2
Total 104,894 100 54,981 100 159,875 100

Notes: u =underrepresented due to small sample size. Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution. Absolute changes between one survey and another, smaller than 1,800 persons, may be due to a sampling error.

Source: LFS, 2007 and 2008

Family-friendly conditions are relatively favourable for those working in the public sector but are limited or non-existent for those working in the private sector. As only a minority of women work in the public sector, the majority of women have limited family-friendly conditions at their disposal to enable them to reconcile work and family commitments.

In terms of economic activity, the top four economic activities for women are education (16.9%), wholesale, retail and repairs (15.4%), health and social work (12.9%) and hotel and restaurant work (10.7%). The high proportion of women in education may be attributed to the fact that being employed as a teacher is one of the few jobs which permits mothers to have a full-time job, since their working hours are shorter and often easier to reconcile with those of their children. Men tend to be found more frequently in the manufacturing sector (17.5%), wholesale, retail and repairs (15.8%), and construction (10.8%).

The total percentage of women working in agriculture, hunting and forestry is less than 1%, while no women are reported to be working in fishing, mining and quarrying, or in extra-territorial organisations and bodies. The percentage of men working in these last three categories is also extremely low.

Table 6: Total number and % of employed persons, by economic activity and sex
Economic activity .Men .Women .Total
Number % Number % Number %
Agriculture, hunting and forestry 2,441 2.3 316u 0.6 2,757 1.7
Fishing 378u 0.4 378u 0.2
Mining and quarrying 529u 0.5 529u 0.3
Manufacturing 18,362 17.5 5,121 9.3 23,483 14.7
Electricity, gas and water supply 3,722 3.6 174u 0.3 3,896 2.4
Construction 11,302 10.8 575u 1.0 11,877 7.4
Wholesale and retail trade, repairs 16,587 15.8 8,488 15.4 25,075 15.7
Hotels and restaurants 7,802 7.4 5,893 10.7 13,695 8.6
Transport, storage and communication 9,741 9.3 3,249 5.9 12,990 8.1
Financial intermediation 3,036 2.9 3,573 6.5 6,609 4.1
Real estate, renting and business activities 7,873 7.5 3,552 6.5 11,425 7.2
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security 8,846 8.4 4,928 9.0 13,774 8.6
Education 4,310 4.1 9,260 16.9 13,570 8.5
Health and social work 5,553 5.3 7,082 12.9 12,635 7.9
Other community, social and personal service activities 4,199 4.0 2,543 4.6 6,742 4.2
Private households with employed persons 227u 0.4 227u 0.2
Extra-territorial organisations and bodies 213u 0.2 213u 0.2
Total 104,894 100 54,981 100 159,875 100

Notes: u = underrepresented due to small sample size. Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution.



Age differences in employment

The distribution of employed persons by age reveals that the majority of workers are between 25 and 34 years of age (Table 7). The situation is relatively similar for both women and men, although there are 28,749 men compared with 18,745 women working in this age group.

The number of men in employment is higher than that of women in all age groups, although the smallest difference appears in the 15–24 years age group. It is encouraging to note that the proportion of working women is highest (34.1%) in the 25–34 years age group – which are the crucial childbearing and rearing years for many women. If women have managed to remain in the labour market during these years, they are more likely to stay there once their children are older. This finding indicates that a significant attitude change towards paid work is taking place among the younger generations of women.

Table 7: Age group of employed people, by sex, April–June 2007 and 2008
Age group Men Women Total
Number % Number % Number %
April–June 2007 (revised)
15–24 years 14,356 13.4 11,964 23.5 26,320 16.7
25–34 years 27,763 26.0 16,819 33.0 44,582 28.3
35–44 years 24,885 23.3 10,494 20.6 35,379 22.4
45–54 years 26,573 24.9 8,532 16.8 35,105 22.2
55–64 years 12,583 11.8 3,035 6.0 15,618 9.9
65 years 701u 0.6 63u 0.1 764u 0.5
Total 106,861 100 50,907 100 157,768 100
April–June 2008
15–24 years 13,049 12.4 12,638 23.0 25,687 16.1
25–34 years 28,749 27.4 18,745 34.1 47,494 29.7
35–44 years 24,091 23.0 10,499 19.1 34,590 21.6
45–54 years 25,765 24.6 9,317 16.9 35,082 22.0
55–64 years 12,707 12.1 3,671 6.7 16,378 10.2
65 years 533u 0.5 111u 0.2 644u 0.4
Total 104,894 100 54,981 100 159,875 100

Notes: u = underrepresented due to small sample size. Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution. Absolute changes between one survey and another, smaller than 1,800 persons, may be due to a sampling error.

Source: LFS, 2007 and 2008

 



Unemployment and inactivity

As the findings in Table 8 show, some 10,254 people were unemployed in the period April–June 2008. This amounts to an unemployment rate of 3%. However the number of unemployed men is nearly double that of women at 6,690 and 3,564 respectively.

Table 8: Labour status of working population, by sex, April–June 2007 and 2008
Labour status Men Women Total
Number % Number % Number %
April–June 2007 (revised)
Employed 106,861 63.5 50,907 29.5 157,768 46.3
Unemployed 6,247 3.7 4,590 2.7 10,837 3.2
Inactive 55,181 32.8 116,850 67.8 172,031 50.5
Total 168,289 100 172,347 100 340,636 100
April–June 2008
Employed 104,894 61.7 54,981 31.5 159,875 46.4
Unemployed 6,690 3.9 3,564 2.0 10,254 3.0
Inactive 58,368 34.4 116,251 66.5 174,619 50.6
Total 169,952 100 174,796 100 344,748 100

Note: Absolute changes between one survey and another, smaller than 1,800 persons, may be due to a sampling error.

Source: LFS, 2007 and 2008

The 2008 LFS reports that 66.5% of all women aged 15 years and over are inactive. This means that they are not employed and not actively looking for work or are unemployed. By comparison, only 34.4% of men are inactive. The low female activity rate means that fewer women are working in the formal economy. This has a direct impact on the sustainability of the welfare state, especially when it comes to pensions. Moreover, a considerable number of women are believed to be working in the informal economy.

In terms of the duration of unemployment, women tend to spend less time in unemployment than men and nearly half (48.1%) of women find employment in less than five months (Table 9). Some 21.4% of women and 14% of men spend between six and 11 months looking for a job, while 30.5% of women and 46% of men take longer than 12 months to secure employment.

Table 9: Duration of job search, by sex, April–June 2007 and 2008
Duration of job search .Men .Women .Total
Number % Number % Number %
April–June 2007 (revised)
Less than 5 months 2,144 34.3 2,381 51.9 4,525 41.8
6–11 months 1,393u 22.3 688u 15.0 2,081 19.2
12 months 2,710 43.4 1,521u 33.1 4,231 39.0
Total 6,247 100 4,590 100 10,837 100
April–June 2008
Less than 5 months 2,680 40.0 1,713u 48.1 4,393 42.9
6–11 months 934u 14.0 763u 21.4 1,697u 16.5
12 months 3,076 46.0 1,088u 30.5 4,164 40.6
Total 6,690 100 3,564 100 10,254 100

Notes: u = under-represented due to small sample size. Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution. Absolute changes between one survey and another, smaller than 1,800 persons, may be due to a sampling error.

Source: LFS, 2007 and 2008



Commentary

The detailed analysis of the various facets of the Maltese labour market is a relatively recent phenomenon. The first LFS was carried out in 2000, as Malta was preparing to become a full member of the EU. Since then, comparable employment trends have been measured, which enabled the benchmarking of the Maltese employment situation with that of other countries. The production of this data, among other things, can be useful for the formulation of national policies and strategies and for highlighting labour market trends. This process also enables the identification of certain disparities, such as the gender gaps highlighted in this report.

Despite the availability of such data, there is insufficient analysis of the labour market by independent institutions. The NSO news releases, for instance, are generally descriptive in nature and do not analyse the results in great depth. Thus, more independent analysis of labour market trends needs to be undertaken in order to improve the current situation.

While the LFS provides useful information on several aspects of the labour market, when examining specific subgroups, the data are at times unreliable due to the small size of the sample in relation to the Maltese population. Moreover, the LFS does not delve into some increasingly relevant aspects of the labour market, such as undeclared work.

Overall, Malta is going through a phase of considerable economic restructuring. The manufacturing industry is decreasing in size, while the services sector is expanding considerably, aided by a number of factors such as the advent of call centres, online gaming and the growth in the financial services sector. This is occurring at a time when the government is striving to reduce the size of the public sector in order to make it more sustainable and effective. Despite all of this turmoil, the unemployment rate in Malta is lower than the EU average.

However, the LFS also shows that Malta is not generating a sufficient number of jobs to increase the overall employment rate. In particular, the female employment rate is still the lowest among all of the EU Member States. These findings indicate that the Maltese government needs to facilitate the creation of more jobs with better and more flexible working conditions in order to increase the country’s overall employment rate. Furthermore, the government has not yet managed to contain the phenomenon of early retirement. In 2008, for example, the government issued a call to dock workers for early retirement in order to downsize its workforce. Nearly all of the workers – that is, 1,455 out of 1,637 employees – at Malta Shipyards accepted the offer.

Flexible working conditions for parents, especially for mothers working in the private sector, need to be seriously considered as soon as possible. The government needs to find ways to introduce these measures in the private sector without increasing the financial burden on employers. Public spending on accessible, affordable and quality childcare should be increased, and the government must also address the issue of school opening hours which are incompatible with the normal working day. Until the majority of Maltese women are able to combine work with family responsibilities, the existing gender gaps in employment are likely to persist.

Anna Borg and Manwel Debono, Centre for Labour Studies

EF/09/05

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