85% of unemployed early school leavers

Parliament was told on Tuesday evening that out of 6,966 persons unemployed at the end of March 2012 there were 5,771 (85%) who did not even have an ‘Ordinary Level’ standard of education as they left school when they turned 16 or before.

The school attainment level of another 930 persons looking for a job ranges from 'O' to 'A' level while 265 unemployed hold diplomas or university degrees.

Out of 6,966 looking for a job, 1,269 (18%) are under the age of 25.

New EU data published last week confirms that Malta still has the largest percentage of early school leavers in the EU27, standing at 36.9%. In 2010, the percentage was 14% on average in the EU27.

The data released by EU's data body Eurostat, is part of the institutions' yearbook.

It shows that Malta retains the top spot when it comes to early school leavers in all Europe. The only country which is worse than Malta and is shown in the table for comparison is Turkey.

Malta is the only EU country which has a rate of early school leavers that surpasses the 30% mark. Malta's total is 36.9%, with 32.2% of female students exiting schooling prematurely, with the male average standing at an abysmal 40.9%. If one is to consider males and females separately, Malta still retains this top spot.

Portugal and Spain stand at second and third place, with 28.7% and 28.4%.

Early leavers from education and training are defined as persons aged 18 to 24 who have completed at most lower secondary education and who have not received any education or training in the last four weeks.

The Europe 2020 strategy and the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training have set a target of 10% for 2020 for this indicator. Malta is nowhere near reaching that target with more of the same present educational policies of the PN government.

A new initiative for young people

Taking part in a roundtable conference organised by the Forum Zghazagh Laburisti (FZL) with young people and their main organisations in Malta and Gozo, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said that a new government would guarantee that all those who turn 16 and do not continue studying and do not find a job within six months of leaving school will be given training and help to get a good job.

Muscat said that it is very worrying that four out of 10 school leavers do not continue studying and a number of them do not know how to read and write. He said that five per cent of students are high-fliers and this should be celebrated, "but we cannot ignore the 37% who leave school early often unskilled and unemployable. 35% of our unemployed are made up of young people. Our country needs the biggest number of skilled people to succeed, attract investment and create good quality jobs".

Muscat said that the project to guarantee training opportunities for young people will spread at a European level and Malta must be one of the pioneers promoting this project which has been launched by the European Socialist Party.

He said that this system guarantees social mobility and combines work and education. "If we do not take the initiative, the vicious circle will go on: poverty arises out of educational failure, unemployment or precarious work. With all the nice schools being built we still have children falling behind and we achieve very little when we try to do something about it when it is too late."

A wide range of youth organisations took part in the round table conference held at the National Labour Centre in Hamrun. These organisations included Moviment Zghazagh Partit Nazzjonalista, Studenti Demokristjani Maltin, Move, Graffiti, the youth sections of the General Workers' Union and the Union Haddiema Maghqudin, Kunsill Studenti Universitarji. Kunsill Nazzjonali Zghazagh and Kunsill Studenti Junior College


Cost of divorce

The cost of obtaining a divorce in Malta is officially €193 per person. On Monday Justice Minister Chris Said gave parliament a breakdown of the costs:

Sworn plea for divorce:        €11.65

Notification (two):     €6.98

Reply: €11.65

Notification:   €3.49

(If lawyer notified)   €2.33

Lawyer's fee: €150.00

Total:  €193.08

The Yes Movement campaigning for divorce last year had insisted that the costs of the divorce procedures introduced in Malta should be as affordable as possible.

Since divorce was introduced in Malta on 1 October 2011 there have been 505 applications for divorce of which 234 were accepted.

Applications since 1 October 2011:

Malta - 491

Of which:

346 by individuals after separation

93 by couples after separation

37 where separation is pending

15 by couples not separated.

Gozo - 14 mostly by couples already separated.

Divorces granted in court:

Malta: 222

Gozo: 12

Before the introduction of divorce an average of 40 divorces per year granted by courts in other countries used to be registered in Malta.

Divorce was introduced in Malta after 53% voted for it in a referendum a year ago.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had decided to hold a referendum on the divorce issue but then he was one of 11 government MPs who voted against the introduction of divorce in parliament, with 52, including 19 government MPs, voting in favour.

The author is shadow minister for education