Malta needs living wage to allay growing number of people at risk of poverty, campaigners say

Anti-poverty campaigners said poverty statistics show COLA increase is not responding to poorest of Maltese population

The elderly are among the people affected by inflationary poverty
The elderly are among the people affected by inflationary poverty

The anti-poverty alliance AKF has called for further studies into the causes of poverty in Malta, after the SILC report identified 80,000 people on an equivalised income of just €9,000.

Among the 80,000 are pensioners, single-parent households, large families but also people in gainful employment who are not managing to eke a dignified living (6.45).

The equivalised income is based on the number of persons in a household. The SILC report showed a decrease of 0.3% in people who were ‘materially deprived’, that is without basic goods necessary to have a dignified life. But the 80,000 figure represented 17% of the Maltese population living close to the poverty line, who were finding it hard to make ends meet.

“A life lived in poverty is not a dignified life. AKF believes there is more than one measure with which to identify poverty for the various family structures and their incomes. The important Caritas report ‘A minimum essential budget for a decent living’ showed the various types of families with their individually different needs, which shows they need different minimum incomes to live a dignified life… it looks like these reports are still gathering dust on some shelf,” the alliance said.

AKF said that inflationary poverty did not affect everybody the same. “That is why we are proposing a change in the way the cost of living allowance (COLA) is calculated. We are proposing that different social groups are identified, as proposed by Caritas, and that a specific calculation of COLA is adopted for each group.

“The National Statistics Office has always employed the retail price index for the unitary COLA, when people who earn less will undoubtedly spend more of their income on basic needs. So today’s system is unjust to low-income earners. The RPI is not discerning the real cost of living for those in poverty, and the COLA increase is not compensating certain groups, like the elderly; indeed it is being neutralized, to the extent that these people are falling into poverty.”

AKF also called for a national discussion on living income, saying the SILC report showed that the national minimum wage in Malta was not enough of a guarantee for a dignified life.

“It is the introduction of a living income, rather than minimum income, that would reflect the type of income one needs not to live at risk of poverty, and this would be the essential step so that everybody in Malta lives a dignified life.”

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