Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has called for a mature national discussion on Malta’s low birth rate, which he admitted makes the hiring of foreign workers a necessity to keep some crucial sectors afloat.
During a debate on NET TV’s Kontra Kurrent last night, Caruana was asked how the government intends to address the staff shortage among nurses and healthcare workers.
The minister’s response was frank.
Malta’s labour market, he said, was facing staff shortages across the board due to the country’s ageing population and low birth rate.
“Besides encouraging more people to become nurses and healthcare workers, we also have to facilitate the process of hiring foreign workers to meet the demand,” he said, noting that this has been requested by the nursing union MUMN.
“When only 4,000 new people enter the education system every year and the demand keeps increasing, the only long-term solution would be to have more children. However even in this case, they won’t enter the workforce for another 25 years if they complete their education as we want them to.”
Recent statistics found that Malta has the lowest birth rate in the EU, with 1.14 births per woman recorded in the EU, below the EU average of 1.53.
A national employment policy that Caruana recently launched outlines initiatives to keep people in the workforce beyond retirement age.
Asked whether Malta will follow Italy in launching incentives aimed at encouraging more people to have children, Caruana called for a deep discussion and serious studies.
“I have no problem discussing this issue in a mature manner because these are the kind of serious issues that this country needs to discuss,” he said.
“This isn’t an issue that a PL or PN government brought about but an issue about how our society has evolved.”
Shadow Finance Minister Mario De Marco didn’t comment on Malta’s low birth rate but criticised the government for failing to plan ahead.
“The economy of today won’t be the same as the economy of tomorrow, and if the pandemic taught us one thing it’s that we weren’t doing certain things right and that there are different ways to increase economic activity.”
Cover photo: Left: Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, Right: Stock photo
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