UHM unveils budget proposals

Union unveils budget proposals, emphasises need of second pillar pension scheme introduction, disagrees with ‘subsidisation’ of third pillar via tax credits.

The UHM emphasised the need for the introduction of the second pillar pension.
The UHM emphasised the need for the introduction of the second pillar pension.

The Union Haddiema Maghqudin today unveiled its budget proposals including suggestions on how to enhance job creation as part of its Active Labour Market Policy (ALMP) agenda, while also emphasising the need for the introduction of the second pillar pension scheme.

"The second pillar pension scheme should have been introduced yesterday not today," according to UHM's secretary general Josef Vella.

Vella said that the introduction of the second pillar pension should be immediately implemented by government, adding that while the UHM was not particularly against the third pillar pension scheme, it felt this applied for people who were better off financially, having the third pillar as an option.

"Third pillar should come after second pillar, and government should introduce the latter in that order and not introduce third pillar before the second," Vella said.

Vella added that the UHM was however against the 'subsidisatiuon' of third pillar via tax credits.

The UHM strongly believes in a sustainable society because it was only through sustainability that one can ensure a better quality of life to future generations.

"UHM's budget proposals are intended to enhance the prospect of a sustainable future for the common good," the union's secretary general said.

A worrying factor for the union was that "our society was set to experience one of the biggest challenges in history – demographic aging".

According to the union it is estimated that by the end of this decade the age cohort in the 16 to 22-age bracket will experience a sharp drop – from 40,000 to 30,000 while on the other hand, the 65 cohort will increase from 65,000 to 80,000, "leaving disconcerting effects in the process".

This meant that demand for health and other social benefits was set to rise while the labour supply shrinks.

The union envisages that by 2020 there will be about 500 less graduates from University, ITS and MCAST when compared to present levels while early school leavers would still amount to 1,700 students by 2020.

The union recommends government addresses the issue immediately in order to increase the potential of successful students.

"Although the situation is currently being addressed, not enough was being done by government in this regard," Vella said.

Vella added that by 2020 the potential working age population would decrease by 6,000 persons and by around 11,000 by 2030.

The UHM recommends the setting up of the Counselling and Monitoring Team as part of the Active Labour Market Policy agenda, the introduction of the Employment Aid Programme and Training Framework, continuing to provide Gozitan civil servants by utilising them in back office work in Gozo, and refraining from legitimising precarious work, acting as a model employer.

Vella said that according to EU studies, "Malta had one of the highest rates of shadow economy activity – 26% of GDP, meaning that "the State failed to collect a substantial amount of tax dues", calling on government to clamp down on tax evasion".

Regarding the health sector, the UHM feels that demands in this sector would continue to increase.

Vella recommends that efficiency within Mater Dei Hospital needed to be improved, and the funds gained through more efficiency would result in further primary health investment.

Clyde Caruana, Clyde Caruana, a lecturer from the University of Malta and who presented a number of findings, emphasised that government continues working to introduce family-friendly measures to attract more females to work.

"Since both parents are required to work in this day and age, it was also important that the responsibility of the family wasn't neglected. Therefore, government should implement measures that enable one parent to work reduced hours," Caruana said. 

Caruana said that everyone should be given the benefit of free child care by government.

"The UHM recommends that 3,000 new child care places are created, adding to the present 2,000 which would create 550 new career opportunities. This in turn would result to 2,000 more mothers taking up employment while also bringing along with it more income for government, among other incentives," Caruana said.

On the environment, Vella said that government should continue to offer schemes that incetivise people to invest in solar water heaters and photovoltaic cells, renew the car-scrapping scheme, and introduce fiscal incentives to car owners to convert to gas-powered engines.

Another recommnedation encourages government to continue with its plans to consider gas as an alternative fuel to power the powerstations.