One in five babies in Malta now born to non-Maltese women

22.2% of all deliveries were to non-Maltese women, compared with 8% ten years ago and 4.9% in 2000

The latest data shows 22.2% of all deliveries were to non-Maltese women, compared with 8% ten years ago and 4.9% in 2000. On the contrary, the number of babies born to Maltese women has fallen from 3,511 in 2007 to 3,364 in 2017.
The latest data shows 22.2% of all deliveries were to non-Maltese women, compared with 8% ten years ago and 4.9% in 2000. On the contrary, the number of babies born to Maltese women has fallen from 3,511 in 2007 to 3,364 in 2017.

Roughly a quarter of all babies born in Malta during 2017 were born to non-Maltese women, according to data collected by the National Obstetric Information System.

The statistics account for all births occurring in both public and private hospitals in Malta and Gozo and are compiled annually by local health authorities.

The latest data shows 22.2% of all deliveries were to non-Maltese women, compared with 8% ten years ago and 4.9% in 2000. On the contrary, the number of babies born to Maltese women has fallen from 3,511 in 2007 to 3,364 in 2017.

Roughly one-third of foreign mothers were from Western Europe, with Eastern European women making up the second most represented group at 25% of the total. Children born to African women amounted to some 15%, while a fifth were Asian or Middle Eastern.

Malta has witnessed a large influx of foreign workers, that between 2013 and 2017 increased by an average of 8,700 people every year – compared to an average of 1,700 every year during the preceding five years.

The increase in Malta’s non-native population, whose babies born here are not granted citizenship, is a fact that co-exists with fewer Maltese women having children

Demographic historian Simon Mercieca says the data is indicative of the changing nature of migration to Malta, which now attracts skilled workers from Europe and which naturally includes a greater number of women. “In the past, migrants to Malta were mainly men,” Mercieca remarked. “But Malta has historically always been a melting pot of different cultures and this phenomenon is by no means unprecedented.”

Economist Marie Briguglio noted such an influx, given Malta’s small size of its baseline population, is definitely resulting in “very tangible” differences to Maltese communities.

“Unlike what one might observe in other countries, new residents are not simply living in one locality, but they are locating in many places, so their influence on communities will be felt.”

This carries both positive aspects like cultural diversity, and negative aspects, such as new stresses exerted on the country’s infrastructure and resources, she pointed out.

The impact on the labour force, especially lower wages and a rise in rents, could also bring about a greater level of inequality, which is a cause for concern for Briguglio. “In many cases the data through which one might be able to analyse the impact of immigration is incomplete. These birth statistics start to shed light on the actual situation,” she said, speculating that the number of foreigners in Malta could potentially be larger than official figures show.

 

Tomorrow’s natives

Anthropologist Michael Deguara agrees that any society, Maltese or other, is neither static nor homogenous. “A cursory look at Maltese surnames would suffice to show that people from different parts of the world came to Malta and at some point started calling it home,” he said. “We only need to look at our history to see that over the centuries, the ‘foreigners’ of yesteryear became the ‘locals’ of today.”

One of the commonly held fears about immigration is that it could lead to a loss of national identity. But while more diversity undoubtedly brings about change, Deguara said this is not one of the major forces of social change in Malta.

“Social media, for instance, has had a far more widespread and radical effect on the way we communicate, relate to each other and live our daily lives,” Deguara said, who sees the rising demand for accommodation more of a primary concern. “It is leading to a situation where Maltese and foreign nationals alike are being exploited.”

Foreigners in Malta need “dialogue and education”, Deguara says – namely understanding the language and certain cultural norms. Deguara, who is a part of the Changing Communities Malta (CCM) initiative, prefers to speak about ‘intercultural dialogue’ rather than ‘integration’.

“It indicates that both locals and foreigners need to find a way to interact in ways that are mutually respectful,” he said, noting that people are spending less time interacting with members of their community, irrespective of race.

At a recent CCM “breakfast table” set up in Marsa, minorities and residents came together. “It was not an event for minorities – it was for everybody. People were eager to interact, irrespective of where they come from. It doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. But it’s about daily concerns such as cleanliness and noise, rather than some ethnic incompatibility.”

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