56% of Maltese see themselves as 'middle class'

Eurobarometer survey registers 11-point increase in Maltese respondents identifying themselves as working class compared to previous year

File photo
File photo

One in four Maltese people will identify themselves as working class, according to a survey carried out by the Eurobarometer data collection service.

Conversely, just one in 20 in Malta will identify as upper-middle, but none associate with the higher or upper class, a term more akin for those of aristocratic lineage.

In contrast, 56% identify as middle class, while 14% see themselves as lower-middle class, a section that may be equated to the petit-bourgeoisie or self-employed who while avoiding wage-labour are still not as financially secure as middle-class employees.

The question on class belonging, inserted in the standard Eurobarometer survey, is more an indication of how respondents in different countries identify themselves relatively to others within their national reality, than a reflection of income differences. It could also reflect aspiration rather than actual living standards.

Moreover, in an indication that the pandemic and higher inflation may have reinforced class-consciousness in Malta, the percentage of those identifying with the working class has increased by 11 points over Spring 2021, while those identifying with lower middle-class have also increased by 2 points.

In contrast, the percentage of those who feel that they belong to the middle class has decreased by 13 points. The percentage of those identifying with upper-middle class has remained stable at a low 5%.

The survey suggests that the class divide in Malta mirrors that of the European mainstream, with the only significant difference being that less people in Malta identify with the upper-middle class.

Significantly, the survey exposes a divide between countries like the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Scandinavian nations with a larger portion of ‘upper-middle class’ people and those where this class is nearly absent.

This suggests that social mobility is higher in these affluent countries, some of which also have a higher level of taxation and a strong welfare system. The Netherlands is the only EU country where a significant portion see themselves as belonging to the higher class (4%). In all other EU countries, less than 2% feel likewise.

On the other hand, working-class consciousness is strongest in the Iberian peninsula and some Balkan countries.

In an indication that class identification is also based on status and not just income, the working-class component is smaller in countries like Italy, which has experienced economic difficulties in the past decade. While 11% of Italians identify themselves as working-class, 61% see themselves as middle class.

Surprisingly despite facing economic collapse, the class divide in Greece is similar to that in Malta, with the only difference being that only 2% of Greeks identify with the upper-middle class. In contrast, Ireland, which has largely recovered from the downturn in 2009, has seen the working class component reach 32% in the latest survey.