Why we need Jobs+

The idea behind Jobs+ is to create a holistic and long-term active labour market policy (ALMP) which addresses the needs of the labour market. Needless to say, a dynamic labour market with a high participation rate is ideal for economic growth.

The main goals of Jobs+ are the following:

  • Increase in employment ratio (EU target 2020 is 75%) Current trends suggest that Malta is on course to reach an employment rate of 69% by 2020. Through Jobs+, we're going to try to reduce the gap between the two targets as much as possible.
  • 'Up-skilling' of the workforce Unless Malta creates a momentum whereby a substantial number of workers are up-skilled, our economy won't develop and be more productive. Just 19% of the EU27 workforce achieved secondary level as their highest education, and while the corresponding rate for Malta is 46% we must do better.
  • Making working pay Unfortunately the Maltese welfare system is very passive. The disincentives that kick in once a person on benefits decides to join the labour force are considerable. The marginal effective tax rate, that is, the amount of tax deduction and benefit loss that a welfare beneficiary experiences once employed can be as high as 110%. If this is compared to our highest tax bracket (35%) it is self-explanatory why welfare beneficiaries are reluctant to take up work.
  • Increase the investment in ALMP Malta is the third country from last among all EU Member States when it comes to investment in the labour market. Education and training do not end after university. We have to keep investing, even in those who are highly qualified, let alone in those who lack training.

Eurostat statistics indicate that during the past decade, all new Member States except Cyprus grew at a faster pace than Malta. Assuming that real GDP per capita in the Euro Area had a value of 100 both in 2000 and 2012, it is quite clear from the diagram above that Central and Eastern European countries are growing more quickly than Malta.

This simply means that, unless Malta takes the necessary steps to develop its economy, in a matter of decades Central and Eastern European countries will surpass our standard of living. That is why Jobs+ is in part a step forward in giving the economy what it needs to improve.

Jobs+ How?

Clyde Caruana, who has been appointed to lead this initiative, already expressed most of his views when writing the the Next Leap document for UHM about a year ago. All the political parties and the social partners endorsed this policy document. They showed their support again when they attended its launch a few days ago. Now it is a question of priorities. For activation measures to be successful, first we have to have the necessary infrastructure in place (for example, more and free childcare and more Klabb 3-16).

As regards the Employment and Training Corporation, just to mention one example, for sure there is the need to focus more on personalised services. In Next Leap it was highlighted that workloads in Personal Employment Services are too high. In addition, we have to introduce a culture where we start analysing the effectiveness and efficiency of our activation programmes.

Another issue that must be addressed is that activation measures must be on a long-term basis. We can't afford to have successful scheme that comes to an abrupt end because funds run out. We have to plan in advance to ensure continuity.

Closing the gap

In education we are committed to closing the gap between policy development, successful learning in our classrooms and students' achievement. We have a clear agenda to address an inherited, worrying situation as indicated in a number of local reports (including the Year 3 survey in Maltese and English, the End of Year 6 Benchmark Examinations in Maltese, English and Mathematics and the SEC and MATSEC reports) and international studies (including the PISA study, PIRLS and TIMSS).

We are committed to providing a quality education system for all our students through a number of initiatives, including relevant curricula and assessment for learning and attention to career paths and incentives for teachers.

Our roadmap gives due importance to the development of policies in key areas, to the quality of teaching and learning that takes place where it matters most and to students' achievement. We intend to close the gap between the intended and the actual curriculum, between policy and classroom learning.

It is common sense that policy documents alone, though important, do not bring change or achieve the desired results unless there is a strategic plan and an ambitious and achievable learning outcomes framework.

We are proposing a number of measures that will provide a quality and relevant schooling experience for our students and satisfaction for our educators in their professional careers.

Our roadmap proposes a comprehensive strategy for educational change which is coherent in its implementation, so as to provide the necessary support and resources while respecting educators. We propose a model of collaboration that brings together all stakeholders, including policy-makers, academics, professional leaders and educators, union representatives, students and the greater community, in order to close the gap between policy, learning and outcomes.

 

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education

 

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