Jobs in Malta

This new reality has resulted in salary/wage inflation, importation of foreign manpower and a ‘cosmopolitanization’ of the local workforce


By Kevin-James Fenech

Kevin-James Fenech is the founder and owner of JOB Search - and FENCI Consulting

In Malta, there are currently too many jobs chasing too few ‘job seekers’. In fact, the President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Frank V. Farrugia, recently stated that the ‘lack of skilled labour’ is the greatest challenge faced by local businesses.

Granted, the much-welcomed growth and economic expansion our country witnessed in the last 5+ years has clearly brought about an economic ‘renaissance’. Business people, captains of industry and local investors are all happy and smiling. Yet, like everything else, even something good (in this case economic growth) comes at a cost.  

For the past two years, at least, there has been a significant shortage of manpower in the local labour market; too many jobs chasing too few employees/workers. I believe the figure is in the region of circa 30,000+; meaning the job market struggles to fill that many vacancies and has to resort to importation of labour.

This new reality has resulted in salary/wage inflation, importation of foreign manpower and a ‘cosmopolitanization’ of the local workforce.  

Anyone who works in HR or recruitment, will confirm that a large number of applicants for any vacancy now-a-days, are typically non-Maltese and job experience or qualifications have been demoted from ‘must have’ to ‘nice to have’.  In addition, retaining the best talent is quickly becoming a new ‘hot’ war between local businesses.

Therefore, and respectfully, I cannot but disagree with some of the proposals floated by the President of the Chamber of Commerce. I am particularly referring to the campaign to promote Malta to foreign workers and the setting up a fast-track VISA scheme for non-EU workers.

Jobs in Malta have become a pain-point for the economy in general. I say this since there is a limit to the ratio of non-Maltese workers which the job market can absorb. The economy cannot assimilate a large number of non-Maltese speaking workers (currently stands at 43,000), since ‘foreign’ workers are not ‘Malta ready’ from day 1; they must first adapt to local culture, overcome the language barrier and ultimately must be willing to settle in Malta. According to national employment statistics, the vast majority of foreign workers who have arrived in recent years, left the country with 1-2 years and this causes much disruption to local businesses.  

It is also not uncommon today, to have young 20-year-olds carrying the job title ‘Manager’ and/or companies recruiting people they know do not meet expectations (especially in terms of qualifications + experience) but they are so desperate to recruit they take them on regardless. Clearly, this is not sustainable in the long term and will come back to haunt us.  

As stated earlier, strong economic growth comes at a cost and maybe we need to tame or normalise our national appetite for growth. Our infrastructure is barely keeping up; pollution is on the rise; traffic congestion everywhere; construction on steroids; prices going up but service quality diminishing; and the list goes on. Yet what people don’t appreciate is that every country that went through a similar growth spurt, experienced the same ‘growing pains’. It is natural and inevitable. What we need to do, however, as a country, is to decide how much growth we want/need. Is it 4%, 5% or 6%+?

There is no point scaling up your business to meet an ever-growing demand by recruiting more and more people on an unsustainably high salary which sooner or later your business will not be able afford especially if there is a correction in the market or worse a slowdown.

Companies need to be wise and tame their appetite for growth. Even if this means saying no to more work; to ever growing new customers; or to gaining more market share. The key word is ‘sustainable growth’ but the direction must come from our leaders.  

I always advise my clients that the most important thing in any business (even more important than Strategy which is a pet favourite of mine) is talent. People make (or break) a business and if you recruit people that do not fit your vision, culture and expectations of quality, you end up diluting your ‘x’ factor. Great companies are great because they have great people and the fit is perfect. Aggressive recruitment for the sake of getting the numbers through the door is the fastest way to destroying a sustainable business.

We should not compound the problem by promoting Malta to foreign workers since this will only exacerbate the problem. Jobs in Malta must be created in a sustainable manner without negatively impacting ‘Product Malta’. Furthermore, the creation of new jobs should match the number of local new graduates or school leavers entering the job market. The importation of manpower should be restrained to the bare minimum so and I say again (without any apologies) ‘Product Malta’ is not undermined.

Our vision should be quality in everything we do especially for jobs in Malta. Attracting more people from outside our shores will satisfy a short term need at the expense of long term sustainability. Let’s not be greedy and tame our appetite for growth.

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