Growing, growing… and growing: See how Malta’s population has spiked up

Malta’s population growth over the past eight years has been impressive but it is not unprecedented.

Growing,  growing… and growing
Growing, growing… and growing

Malta added more than another Gozo to the size of its population in just three years, figures out last week showed.

By the end of 2017, Malta’s population had grown by 36,000 when compared to 2014, according to data published by Eurostat, an EU agency. Growth during the three-year period stood at an impressive 8.2%.

The recent spurt in population growth is fuelled by foreign workers and their families, who are plugging a labour shortage caused by a thriving economy.

The influx of foreigners is leaving its mark on the country’s social fabric. Only last week the Hamrun council distributed leaflets on waste collection times in the locality that included instructions in Italian and Arabic, along with Maltese and English.

It is a sign of the increased numbers of foreigners who are making Malta their home, necessitating changes at community level.

According to the National Statistics Office 11,738 EU nationals and 8,434 from non-EU countries were added to Malta’s population last year. These were partially off-set by the departure of 2,508 EU nationals and 3,488 non-EU nationals.

Eurostat recorded that the population at the end of 2017 stood at 475,701 and is fast approaching the half-a-million mark.

But while the figures of the past three years show impressive growth, they come on the back of a 6.2% increase in population between 2009 and 2014.

An analysis of population figures carried out by MaltaToday, using Eurostat data spanning back to 1959, shows that Malta last experienced significant increases in population between 1984 and 1994.

In 1984, Malta’s population had grown by 5.3% over the preceding five years. By 1989, population growth rose to 6.2%, accelerating further to 6.8% by 1994.

But in the 10 years that followed, population growth slowed down to an average of 3% every five years.

EU membership in 2004 does not seem to have had an immediate impact. But statistics show that by 2012, the number of EU nationals coming to work in Malta started picking up.

A booming gaming sector attracted foreign workers, particularly Swedes. But workers from recession-hit countries like Spain and Italy also started to explore opportunities in Malta.

The foreigner boom picked up in earnest around 2014 and has not abated since.


When Maltese were encouraged to leave

However, the long-term analysis also gives a glimpse of a time when Malta’s population had gone in reverse, aided by a government policy to help Maltese find new pastures abroad.

The numbers show how in 1964, the year when Malta achieved independence, the population had decreased by 6,600 over the previous five years.

The decline was steeper by 1969, when the population contracted by 18,100 in five years. This was a time when it was government policy to encourage Maltese emigration, in the belief that the country was not able to provide enough work for its people.

By 1974 the population decline was brought to a halt, as the country diversified its economy and attracted manufacturing firms to open shop.

The profound changes in the country’s economic and social landscape during the 1970s ensured that the departure of the British forces from Malta by the end of the decade, had little impact on jobs.

During this period, the population started to grow again. At the end of 1979, the year the British military base closed down, Malta’s population had grown by 13,370, or 4.4%, in five years.

In 1979, Malta’s population stood at 315,262 and it only recovered to the same levels as two decades earlier by 1984.

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