[WATCH] Small business owners express concern over labour shortages

The issue of labour shortages is the topmost concern for business for 2018, the GRTU said

The GRTU said a majority of its members were concerned by a shortage of workers
The GRTU said a majority of its members were concerned by a shortage of workers
Shortage of workers a major concern for small businesses

An end-of-year business performance survey carried out by the General Retailers and Traders Union (GRTU) has found that 20% of small business owners were concerned mainly with a shortage of workers in the coming year.

Addressing a press conference on the findings of the survey GRTU Vice President for Finance and Administration Marcel Mizzi said that the union often received personal phone calls from business owners who were having difficulty in finding employees, adding that a significant amount of time was spent 'poaching' workers from other businesses. "It's an employee's market," he said.

"Labour shortages need to be addressed for the economy to continue with the current rhythm," GRTU President Paul Abela said.

He added that although it was positive for workers, the issue needed to be dealt with for the sake of the country's GDP.

Mizzi also stressed that the process by which third country nationals obtained work permits needed to become more expedient. Currently, he said, it takes applicants four months for their permit to be processed, whereas Mizzi said it should happen within days.

Unskilled workers can usually only find employment in labour or as drivers, Abela said, and the latter were being very negatively affected by the points system. "Maltese people who are fully capable of working [as drivers] are being discouraged from doing their job."

Traffic and parking problems were also among stop concerns cited by businesses, as well as competition through online shipping and “foreigners selling illegally”.

However, the GRTU maintained that the survey showed a positive result across various categories.

43.50% of businesses surveyed reported an increase in the previous year, while 31.5% said they remained the same and 25% reported a decrease. 32% reported higher profits.

26% of those who reported an increase said it was due to introducing new services, and 20% reckon that the increase is a result of improved consumer spending power.

Those who reported a decrease say it was due to competition, unfair competition, lack of parking, and sales lost due to online shopping. "We receive a lot of complaints from business owners about online shopping. But we think they have to join them and begin selling their products online."

48.50% of respondents said that the Christmas period affected sales while 51.50% reported that it didn't. The businesses surveyed included pharmacies and petrol stations. 41% said they felt satisfied with their Christmas period sales, with 6% reported feeling very satisfied and 25% were neutral. "This is an extremely positive result."

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