18 May 2005

The Web

Cool response to child care project

James Debono

On 12 April an EU co-financed project offering incentives to employers introducing day care facilities was launched in the presence of the Minister responsible for employment and education Louis Galea.
A month later, in spite of an impressive packet of incentives, only four companies are near signing an agreement with the Employment Training Corporation to participate in this scheme.
Asked on the number of companies, who have signed an agreement, the ETC replied that “Four companies are at a more advanced stage of planning than others.” On the other hand “50 companies have expressed their interest in this project.”
This falls short of the targets announced in April.
Back in April the coordinator of this project had informed this newspaper, that the aim of the project was to open a childcare centers in sixty companies, thus creating 600 new childcare places.
Presently there are 800 children under three years attending day care facilities. This amounts to seven per cent of the total number of Maltese infants.
The influx of 600 new childcare places would increase this number to 1400, or 13 per cent of Maltese infants.
The is still a far cry from the 33 per cent target outlined in the Lisbon agenda but would still a notable achievement.
According to the ETC:
“The availability of suitable premises in compliance with provisional regulations and the long-term sustainability of the project” are the major stumbling blocks faced by the ETC in persuading companies to participate in this project.
So far interest has been shown by companies operating in the hospitality, services, manufacturing, financial and educational sectors. These include both private and public entities.
Through this co-financed project a significant packet of incentives is being offered to employers.
The packet of incentives includes a start up grant of Lm387 for creating the space where to house the child care facility and Lm645 for equipment.
The government is also offering to pay half the salaries of child-carers working in companies participating in this project.
The EU funding amounts to nearly Lm322,500 while the government will be investing Lm107,500.
The availability of day care facilities is considered vital for encouraging women to participate in the labour market.
Currently there are 57,500 more males than females in the labour market and 70 per cent of women are inactive. According to ETC studies, thousands of women want to join the labour market but are unable to do so due to child caring responsibilities.
Malta is currently at the bottom place of rankings in meeting the goals of the Lisbon agenda when it comes to female participation in the labour market.
The number of parents benefiting from cheaper and more accessible day care will depend on the number of “enlightened” companies willing to participate in this scheme.
Replying to questions by The Malta Business and Financial Times in April the Minister for Employment Louis Galea excluded fiscal benefits for parents using day care centers.
In 2002 parents were promised a partial subsidy on expenses borne for sending their children to day care centres. Funds totaling Lm100,000 voted for this scheme in 2002 have been utilized elsewhere since no legal framework exists to regulate childcare centres.
The law regulating day care centres is still to be approved by parliament.


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