On the fourth anniversary since Dr Robert Abela became Prime Minister of Malta, it is worthwhile to list 10 of the main economic and social achievements of this period.
This was a time that has been rife with unprecedented challenges, including a pandemic that ravaged the world economy, as well as the biggest increase in global inflation observed in the last 50 years. In the face of such challenges, Malta made remarkable strides.
1. Fewer than 1,000 people registering for work
In January 2020, there were 1,691 people registering for a job. This was a sharp drop from the 7,350 recorded in March 2013. Under the economic leadership of Robert Abela, for the first time in history the number of those seeking employment fell below a thousand. The most recent figures, in fact, show that there were fewer than 960 people on the unemployment register. This means that, every two days that Dr Abela has been Prime Minister, one person, on average, did not need to register for unemployment any longer. To give some perspective to this change, in Gozo today there are fewer than 60 people looking for a job, when in 2013 there were almost 750.
2. The lowest unemployment rate in the European Union
While under Joseph Muscat’s leadership, Malta managed for the first time to be the country with the lowest unemployment rate across the Euro area, under Robert Abela the country managed for the first time to be the one with the lowest unemployment rate across the European Union as a whole. The most recent figures indicate an unemployment rate of 2.5%, down from 3.7% in January 2020, and from 6% in March 2013. Even at the height of the pandemic, Malta had an unemployment rate much less than it had under the previous Nationalist government, thanks to innovative measures such as the wage supplement and vouchers.
3. More than 300,000 people in employment
For the first time in history, today there are more than 300,000 people working in Malta. Since Dr Abela became Prime Minister, there has been an increase of almost 44,000 full-time jobs and more than 14,000 part-time jobs. Of these new jobs, fewer than six in 100 were in the public sector. For every five graduates who were in employment in January 2020, today there are six. The number of professionals has increased by 25% in just four years. In addition to that, currently for each person registering for work there are today 7 unfilled job vacancies, while in 2013 for each job vacancy there were 7 people registering for work.
4. A female employment rate to match Germany’s
The latest employment figures indicate that, today, we have a record female employment rate of almost two-thirds. This contrasts sharply with the under 50% rate that prevailed under the previous Nationalist administration. The female employment rate in Malta is now almost equal to that in Germany, whereas in 2013 Germany had a rate one and a half times that in Malta. Employment growth in recent years has not been in part-time jobs, like it was before 2013, but has been in full-time positions. Moreover, the number of women in managerial positions today is three times what it was in 2013, and one and a half times what it was in early 2020.
5. GDP per capita exceeding that of the Euro area
Under Joseph Muscat’s premiership, Malta’s GDP reached and exceeded, for the first time, the EU average. Despite the great economic shocks of recent years, under Dr Abela the economy reached another milestone. For the first time, the country’s GDP reached the Euro area per capita average in 2022 and it exceeded it during 2023, as the Euro area economy stagnated while Malta’s growth remained strong.
6. The highest level of household bank deposits and the largest number of homeowners
In the 2008 economic crisis, the Nationalist government’s policy of shifting burdens on households and businesses meant that deposits with banks declined while the property market stagnated. In contrast, the strong response of the Labour administration led by Robert Abela led to a situation where, since 2020, families have increased their deposits with banks by more than €3 billion, while each year residential properties worth more than €3 billion have been purchased.
7. Most extensive support ever given to families and businesses to counter inflation shock
Relative to GDP, support to households and businesses in Malta was one and a half times the European average. In fact, Malta is the only country in Europe where electricity, fuel, and gas are now less expensive than they were in 2020. Meanwhile, in several other countries the increase in the prices of these essential goods and services was the cause of almost half of the inflation. An average Maltese household is saving around €2,000 a year due to the government’s support.
8. Lowest number of people dependent on social assistance
While four years ago there were almost 4,900 people dependent on social assistance, now this number has decreased to 3,900. This means that one in five who depended on this support in 2019 are now able to fend for themselves. Even when looking at single parents, for every four that were dependent on social assistance in 2019, there are now only three. The Abela administration managed to reduce the rate of those in severe material deprivation to below 5%, or a quarter below the European average.
9. Public investment in excess of €1 billion
While austerity reigns across Europe, last year the administration made an unprecedented capital investment of €1,060 million. This resulted in the opening of several new schools, health centres, medical facilities, infrastructure projects, road transport, digital investments as well as unprecedented environmental capital projects. Capital expenditure under Robert Abela was three times that in 2012. Despite this, the national debt burden remained below 60% of GDP, while under a Nationalist government it had reached the worrying rate of 70%.
10. The biggest increase in pensions, children’s allowance, and the minimum wage in history
Besides investing in physical capital, the administration led by Robert Abela continued to push for more social investment, granting the biggest increases ever given in pensions, children’s allowance, and the minimum wage. Pensions will increase by at least €15 per week, with many categories of pensioners such as widows and widowers getting even higher increases. Families will see an increase of €250 in their children’s allowance, while those on the minimum wage will see it increase by more than 10%. At the same time there are other notable increases, including an improvement of €1,000 in the live-in carer grant, the introduction of the additional cost of living mechanism with a benefit of up to €1,500, as well as the boosting of the carer’s grant. As a result, the government’s social expenditure has now reached almost €2.25 billion a year.