Future-proofing Malta

Parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia said Malta has the potential to be among the most ‘future-proof’ countries


Malta has the potential to be among the most ‘future-proof’ countries, particularly in the remit of the future of work and the economy, according to social dialogue parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia.

Speaking at a conference on the future of work, organised in the context of a newly-published report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Farrugia said that the country has a number of advantages which could equip it for the ever-changing economic landscape.

“Today we are not speaking of unemployment, or challenges related to deficits. Today we can boast a surplus, and near full emloyment. The small size of our country and small population relative to that of large economies, brings about its own challenges. But from a positive angle, this gives us the possibility to be far more agile and flexible – and this is not something many other countries can say,” he said.

Echoing the Prime Minister’s statement earlier, he said that what really strengthens his resolve is the thousands of people who are now employed for the first time. “This is the dignified way in which a person feels that they are giving back to society. If there is is anything to be said about the importance of work, it is definitely the dignity that it brings with it.”

The future of work is a theme which is discussed not only within Maltese Council for Economic and Social Development on a local level, but also during ILO and numerous European and international institutions, Farrugia said. “It is important that our country keeps moving forward, keeps building on the success that it has already achieved, and I believe that in the coming years, Malta should join other countries on the list of economies which are considered to be ‘future-proof’ according to the World Economic Forum.”

Farrugia said that in discussions on the future of work, it is also important to speak about the future of the workplace. “This is something that Unions often discuss, and it is important that the two subjects are studied simultaneously.”

“If we look at what the common denominator is of the most future-proof cities, they are agile adaptors. They have agile economies and educational curriculums, which adapt to new situations and the changing landscape – and this is the way to prepare for the decades to come.”

The parliamentary secretary went on to say that our country is not in isolation. It is part of a global world which is becoming more and more globalised, and we are experiencing shocks in the economic, technological, and social systems.

“In a few years, the borders that remain between us will no longer be here. This is the way in which hyper globally connected systems are tearing apart the walls around us and we will be borderless. We are moving towards automation, and we have intense labour mobility, not only in the country – from urban to local areas -- but also from one country to another. We are experiencing huge demographic changes, and our society is becoming smaller and older, and this is one more thing we need to consider in our discussions on the future of work.”

Farrugia said that even the highly skilled are not protected from the impact of the upcoming years, changing economic models, and global competition. Particularly in a borderless economy, there will always be professionals in other countries who could provide the service in real-time – even remotely.

The lower skilled workforce, on the other hand, has the added chalenge of robotics. This means that it will need to work harder to adapt, and move from a less productive industry to a more productive one – that is, if Malta wants to compete with the best economies in the coming years.

“Today we are speaking of industries which our children are being trained in, but which we would never have dreamt of when we were younger. Changes in the welfare systems – the safety nets we had years ago are not the safety nets we will have in the future.”

Farrugia said that at the centre of this is the human resource, and that people need work, a good quality of life and a decent wage, and an economic system which offers stability. To this end, he said, it is important for the government to have a principal role, but also the industry, employers, Unions, and social partners. “Malta find itself in the ideal position to join the top economies. We can be agile and flexible like other countries cannot. But to do this, we need to coordinate all these variables.   

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