Any country that registers almost a one hundred percent employment rate can for a fact say that it has its economy going in the right direction and that there is a general feel good factor which is normally felt by all and sundry because as a rule this would mean that the people have more money in their pockets, more disposable income that can be spent as they please, on leisure and extra curricular activities rather than on the necessities of every day life. Zero unemployment would normally mean more competition between employees who would certainly be vying to secure the signatures of the best workers and offering them lucrative contracts which are no where by comparison near the minimum wage threshold.
Malta has only one thousand eight hundred people on the register waiting to be employed, and whilst this number is not zero, it represents a number of people which are constant in every society that have several issues with the idea of work, so I as one consider this number as negligible and as good as if it were zero. Having said this, our situation would normally mean workers being spoilt for choice, better working conditions, shorter working hours and the de facto minimum wage constantly on the increase due to the large demand for workers that situations like these bring with them. This is not happening, and as a matter of fact, it is very worrying that the real situation is the exact contrary of what Economics books and studies have shown us throughout the years.
We have a situation where workers are hanging on to the job they have, many a time accepting working conditions that are far well below the national standard order, because the pool of unemployed foreigners eagerly waiting to be registered for the first time so that they can work, is so large that workers have become only a number for many employers.
The lax laws granting visas to almost all of those who apply has brought with it a surplus of workers, who of course are not listed as unemployed because they are not even registered with jobs plus. I have spoken personally to some of these souls, many from India, Bangladesh and Nepal, who literally sit in an overcrowded room all day doing nothing, with the hope that their “master” will come and choose a few to start work. It is important to remark that many of these so called workers were lured to Malta on the base of false promises and with the vast majority of them being over qualified for the mean jobs they will end up doing. It is important to remark that many of these persons would have paid over 7000 euros to obtain the necessary documentation only to find themselves living in squalid quarters, with little or no sanitary facilities, with no privacy at all and with their dignity stripped off them altogether.
This is not the situation we should be looking at, this is too high a price to pay for a booming economy. We cannot treat our work force as a commodity. Whilst giving credit to the government for being capable of helping the economy develop into a strong one, we must ensure that the wealth generated from this success, is shared amongst all stake holders, the investors, the employers, the employees and last but certainly not least our communities.
We must not discriminate, but we must be more selective when granting visas and we have to ensure that those who apply to bring workers over do so in bona fede and not use the government’s laxness to make a quick buck or ten. The Prime Minister recently said that the number of people living under the poverty line was fourteen thousand and this number worries me, because these fourteen thousand are suffering the direct consequences of unequal distribution of wealth. IN our year and age it is unacceptable for a European Union country to have such a high poverty rate. Truth be said, the number is on the decline, but it is not declining fast enough and the onus is on this government to ensure that no one is left by the wayside.
Each human being has the basic right to live in a dignified way and action must be taken to help these people before it is too late.