With Maltese unemployment practically zilch, employers on the island are increasingly being left with no option but to recruit foreign workers to keep their business afloat. Yet the Malta Employers Association has recently warned businesses are struggling to keep hold of their foreign staff, as many leave the island after a few months because of the increasingly high cost of living here.
“Employers cannot compensate for an inflated property market,” the MEA’s president Dolores Sammut Bonnici said. “Compensation for labour can only be linked to productivity and value added.”
Has Malta really become too expensive to live in though? A discussion on a Facebook forum for expats provides a useful insight into the issue.
Many people warned their wages aren’t keeping up with the ever-inflating price of goods and, in particular, rent on the island.
“The cost of living is higher for foreigners in Malta… Rent has become a joke and in terms of grocery is comparable to any other big countries in Europe like France or Germany,” a French woman said.
A Norwegian man pinned the blame on people not doing enough detailed research before moving to Malta.
“Some of my Nordic friends, who left after a few months, were expecting beach parties everyday and Greek prices, but it took me less than a week to get a more realistic idea of what to expect,” he said. “Looking at a lot of complaints, the impression I’m left with is that a lot of people took a 3-week vacation at a seafront hotel and then decided to move with the expectation that life would be a permanent hotel vacation. When the horrors of reality set in, and they discover that it’s not a vacation, and not exactly like home, it’s suddenly all bad.”
However, others retorted that the situation has deteriorated dramatically since they moved here several years ago.
“We are here because it used to be different,” a British man said. “I came here 15 years ago, but I get sick when I hear my landlord telling me she will rent out the apartment below us, that used to cost €700, for €2-3k.”
“What about people like me who came here 14 years ago and has seen the rent go up up up and the wages stay stay stay?” a German man asked. “Research was done from my side before, but what I couldn’t know was how Maltese landlords will behave now. Greed and dollars in their eyes – nothing else. There has been no improvement in the quality of the flats in the past 14 years, but the prices are now five times higher, if not more.
“Taking into consideration the miserable wages, Malta is about surviving and not living a life…unless you end up eating just pasta and pastizzi and manage to save up money,” an Arabic woman said. “I laugh when they say we have to adjust our lives to our means. It’s nicely said and doable to a certain limit but till when does one have to squeeze himself and keep on depriving himself and his kids??? Especially when you have brilliant kids but you cannot afford to give them a better education. Yes, education is free, but has someone seen the level they are providing? I hope everyone looks at himself, has a deep look at his life and answers whether we are living or are just trying to exist?”
She was backed up by a Maltese man, who warned everything on the island has shot up except wages and admitted the high cost of living is putting him off having and raising children here.
A Spanish woman took a slightly more diplomatic stance.
“Income is similar [to Spain], slightly lower. But expenses!! Some things really cost double here. Rent is very high, almost all groceries in shops are too, as are clothes and cosmetics. However, public transport and education are very cheap and childcare is free. Depends what you come here for.
Meanwhile, an Italian woman said the state of Malta’s culture does not make up for its cost of living.
Several people brushed off these arguments by pointing out it is still much cheaper to live in Malta than it is to live in London, prompting a Spanish man to deliver this scathing comment.
“London has way more things to do than Malta, flight connections are better to anywhere else, transport is good and punctual, food in supermarkets is cheaper and even though the rent in Malta is cheaper, it is reaching a point where it will be the same. But yes… the sunny weather, poor quality beaches and standing still salaries make up for it… But no worries, most foreigners here have an expiry date due to some Maltese greediness and other things; so there is no need for you to send us back to our country or anywhere else.”