Creating more jobs

Generating inclusive employment opportunities was highlighted in our election manifesto and statistics show that we have now made significant progress with the employment of registered disabled persons

It is universally accepted that the relation between economic growth and employment represents a key to development. The Maltese labour market is currently experiencing a booming period: the latest figures show that in March 2016, the number of registered unemployed was 4,033 or 32% lower compared to the same month in 2015.

This is a remarkable feat, especially when considering that in March 2013 this administration inherited an unemployment figure that stood at 7,350 or 82% higher than the latest available figures. Employment generation is a direct result of a robust Maltese economy: the latest available figures for 2015 show that full time employment with the private sector increased by more than 11,000 jobs over a two year period while the share of full-time public sector employment decreased by 0.8 percentage points. It is thus no surprise that in March 2016, at 4.7% Malta boasted the third lowest unemployment rate among the EU Member states. 

Obviously success does not happen alone. This government has introduced a number of initiatives to make things happen. In 2014 we introduced Free Child Care for families who are in work or in education employment. In 2015, our budget for free child care was almost double that of 2014, rising from €5.2 million to €10.1 million. Parents will continue to benefit from this scheme since the government is committed to maintain this initiative.

The Breakfast Club launched in April 2014 has proved very popular and in the last scholastic year, the daily attendance was of 1,050 students. This has helped provide an added service to working parents whose jobs require an earlier opening time of state schools and additional care for their children.

In the previous programming period 2007-2013 the ETC administered the Employment Aid Programme (EAP) aimed at strengthening employability prospects. The uptake was very successful and agreements were signed with 815 employers in Malta and another 372 employers based in Gozo. Following this success, for the new programming period 2014-2020, the ETC is administering the Access to Employment (A2E) which facilitates the integration of disadvantaged and disabled persons in the labour market. The Training Aid Framework (TAF) programme was launched to enhance adaptability and increase productivity to those already active in the Maltese labour market whereby till the end of the scheme 9,000 trainees actually received training. Similar to the TAF, in the coming months ETC will be launching the Investing in Skills.

Enhancing Employability through training (EET) is another programme that targets those actively employed, early school leavers and the registered unemployed who are eligible to work. Training design, short courses, traineeships and a training subsidy scheme are the major components of this scheme. In the Budget speech 2016, the government announced that for the next seven years, the ETC will be offering 500 traineeships and work exposure opportunities.

During 2015, the corporation placed 580 trainees in traineeships, out of whom 50% completed the scheme and placed 352 trainees in work exposure schemes, out of whom 67% successfully completed the scheme. Up to the end of 2015, the total number of persons benefitting from the EET programme amounted to 14,143.

Since 2014, MCAST has been responsible for the National Apprentice Scheme and there are now over 40 courses at Levels 3 and 4 that form part of the Apprenticeship Scheme. In October of that year, MCAST, in collaboration with Malta Enterprise launched an entrepreneurship centre offering students a framework for ideas as well as space within the Kordin Business Incubation Centre, to nurture, grow and launch their business idea.

Over the years I have promoted inclusion in several aspects. Generating inclusive employment opportunities was highlighted in our election manifesto and statistics show that we have now made significant progress with the employment of registered disabled persons. We have merged registers held by the Department of Social Security and by KNPD to ensure that all persons with a disability are included in the same register. By the end of 2015, the number of disabled persons engaged by employers was 543 as against 309 the previous year. It is most encouraging to note that the highest increase was registered in the private sector, which rose from 193 in 2014 to 488 in 2015.

Generating employment opportunities is an important step to a healthier economy. Through education we are providing training to our youths; alternative learning programmes for those not seeking traditional academic qualifications; providing and matching skills for jobs in today’s world for easier access to employment and offering more opportunities for participation in vocational education. Thus, we are fulfilling our Youth Guarantee project that addresses those not in education, employment or training.

Through these initiatives we are confident that this encouraging situation should persist. The Spring Forecast for Malta published earlier this year, reports that total employment in Malta is expected to increase in both 2016 and 2017. The same report by the EU Commission maintains that this healthy labour market scenario is expected to cause positive ripple effects in the Maltese economy as “strong employment growth and rising real wages” will boost household consumption as well as cause an increase in government current revenue.

Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment

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