MALTA — Poverty in Malta has worsened in recent years, with the number of Maltese living below the poverty line increasing from 15.9 percent in 2014 to 16.3 percent today. While the Mediterranean country weathered the financial crisis of 2008 better than most in the EU, more at-risk Maltese are slipping below the poverty threshold.
Situated strategically between northern Africa and the Italian peninsula, Malta’s economy is driven by foreign trade, manufacturing and, increasingly, tourism. The booming economy has prompted many laborers to look for work on Malta as its unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the region. Liberal employment policies and a fluid labor market structure have lended itself to said rate, but also to employment instability.
Altogether considered, Malta has been one of the Eurozone’s biggest success stories. In each of the last two years Malta’s GDP has grown over 4.5 percent, topping all other Eurozone countries.
So why is Poverty in Malta getting worse?
Intergenerational poverty is a big issue in Malta. Instead of swallowing masses during economic downturns, poverty in Malta is more of a trap; once those at risk have fallen in, they stay in.
A few things exacerbate the trap — lower incomes for single parents, rising rent and food costs, high education-related costs for families i.e. school supplies, clothes, and textbooks for their children, and children dropping out of school due to said costs.
Poverty really comes down to whom you’re born to in Malta. A child of wealthy parents will have no trouble during their primary education, whereas a child born to impoverished parents may scrape by for a few years before their family is forced to pull them from school because of piling bills.
How to fix Poverty in Malta?
Some Maltese have called for the introduction of rent controls to force landlords to keep the price of apartments down. It’s still unclear whether this would fix the problem or just slap a bandaid on a festering wound.
The new Maltese MEP Francis Dimech spoke on the issue of Maltese education at a recent CULT Committee meeting.
“[Education] is the key to economic growth, competitiveness, innovation and quality of life both at the personal and societal level.” Whether this attitude leads to education-cost control measures for low-income families is yet to be seen. But, at least the new MEP recognizes the value of education and its effect on those climbing out of poverty.
Poverty in Malta is still a problem, but not one that can’t be easily addressed and reeled in. During the global financial crisis of 2008, while many nations experienced runaway unemployment and the plunge into poverty, Malta was relatively stable. Its challenge will prove to be whether or not Malta’s government can address its own shortcomings through targeted policies.
– Thomas James Anania