MaltaToday Survey | Cost of living remains major concern

FULL DATA Concern for health and jobs on the rise

James Debono
11 June 2013, 12:00am

A MaltaToday survey about the public's concerns indicates that the major one remains the cost of living, followed by utility costs. But compared to November of last year, the percentage of those concerned about the cost of living dropped by 16.5%. However concern for jobs increased by 8%. The MT survey also asked respondents about Malta's economic prospects, and the overwhelming majority are optimistic three months after a change in government.

Three months after the election of a new government, the Maltese are largely optimistic about the economic prospects of their country, but nearly four out ten think that the country is still at risk of going down the same path as EU member states like Greece and Cyprus, which had to resort to a painful bailout after declaring themselves bankrupt.

A survey carried out among 400 respondents between Monday and Thursday shows that 48% expect the economy to grow in the next months, while less than 13% expect it to contract. But 38% still think that Malta faces a high or moderate risk of bankruptcy.

The survey comes in the wake of a number of positive assessments of the Maltese economy by credit agencies like Fitch, Moodies and the International Monetary Fund, all of which gave the economy a clean bill of health despite expressing concern about the deteriorating fiscal position and increase in public debt. In the past weeks Malta also found itself facing an excessive budget procedure by the European Commission, which expects the country's deficit to surpass the 3% permissible mark.

The climate of optimism is particularly strong among Labour voters in the last general election, 73% of whom expect economic growth in the next months. This optimism is not shared by Nationalist voters, of whom only 27% expect the economy to grow. Still, even among the latter, the majority expects the economy either to grow or to remain at the same levels of today.

A substantial number of PN voters (27%) expect the economy to remain at its current levels. This suggests a mildly positive outlook among opposition supporters, which could reflect the fact that PN voters regard the clean bill of health given to the Maltese economy as an accomplishment of the previous government.

Optimism on economic growth is slightly higher among respondents with a secondary or primary level of education. While among respondents with a post-secondary level of education, only 39% expect the economy to grow. Among those with a secondary education the percentage of optimists rises to 52%.

But despite a general sense of optimism, a sizeable minority, which increases among the more educated segments of society, thinks that the country still faces a risk of bankruptcy.

This sentiment was more pronounced among respondents with a university education, half of whom think that the risk of bankruptcy for Malta is high or moderate.

Overall only 5% think that Malta faces a high level of risk, but only 21% think that Malta faces no risk at all. Even among the university educated only 8% think Malta faces a very high risk. On the other hand the idea that Malta does not face any risk is stronger among the least educated. While only 12% of university educated respondents think that Malta faces no risk of financial collapse, the percentage rises to 26% among those with a primary level of education.

Labour voters are also more likely than Nationalist voters to think that the country faces no risk of bankruptcy. While only 17% of PN voters think the country is immune from any such risk, the percentage rises to 30% among Labour voters. This suggests that PN voters are either more wary of the new government's handling of the economy or that they have been more accustomed to a political discourse which constantly emphasised the "storms" around Malta.

While those who think that Malta faces a high risk or no risk are in the minority, while one-third thinks that Malta faces a low risk another one-third of respondents thinks that the level of risk facing Malta is a moderate one.

While roughly the same percentage of Labour and Nationalist voters think that Malta faces a very high risk of bankruptcy, Labour voters are less likely than Nationalist voters to think that Malta faces a moderate risk. On the other hand Labour voters are more likely to think that Malta is completely immune from any risk.

Concern for health and jobs on the rise

The election of a Labour government has resulted in growing concerns about jobs and health and lower concern for the cost of living and utility bills. Concern for the cost of living expressed by 67% of respondents in 2009 has now fallen to 27%. Moreover concern on Labour's electoral trump card, the utility bills issue, has fallen from 50% in 2010 to just 20% now.

Compared to last year concern on the cost of living has fallen by 17 points, while concern on utility bills by 11 points.

Since there have been no significant changes to the rate of inflation and the utility bills are not expected to be lowered before next year, the result can be attributed to reluctance by Labour-oriented respondents to express the same concerns as before.  The decrease in the percentage of respondents who mention utility bills as one of their two top concerns could also indicate that respondents are reassured by the new government's plan to eventually reduce these bills.

Labour respondents are also more likely to mention less partisan issues as their main concerns. While only 4% of PN voters mentioned the state of the roads as one of their two top concerns, the percentage rises to 9% among Labour voters.

Significantly the decrease in the two top concerns has been accompanied by an eight-point increase in the percentage of respondents who mentioned lack of employment opportunities as one of their two major concerns. Concern on health services has also risen dramatically, by eight points from just 2% last year to 10% now.

Another shift is that while respondents are less likely to lament the cost of living and utility bills, they are now more likely to lament low wages or low pensions. This suggests a shift in mentality, from expecting the government to control inflation to expecting decent wages and pensions. The surveys show the percentage of those mentioning low income as one of their two top concerns rising by seven points over last year.

The survey also shows a greater diversity of concerns expressed by respondents when compared to last year. A record 19% of respondents expressed their concern on issues falling under the remit of Transport Malta and new Transport Minister Joe Mizzi, namely the roads, traffic and public transport.  Concern on immigration remains low at just 2% while 5.1% mention the environment as one of their two top concerns.


The survey was carried out between Monday 2 June and Thursday 6 June. A total of 701 potential respondents were contacted by telephone, 400 of whom accepted being interviewed. The results of the survey were weighted to reflect the age and gender balance of the population. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.9%.
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...