Social justice is bound to get stronger and firmer in Malta

American John Rawls is widely regarded as one of the most important political philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. He is primarily known for his theory of justice as fairness, which develops principles of justice to govern a modern social order. Rawls’s theory provides a framework that explains the significance, in a society assumed to consist of free and equal persons, of political and personal liberties, of equal opportunity, and cooperative arrangements that benefit the more and the less advantaged members of society. With this premise, we can conclude that Malta, under successive Labour administrations, has well reached and surpassed that target. I shall explain why.

The concept of social justice first arose in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution as attempts were made to promote more egalitarian societies and reduce the exploitation of certain marginalised groups due to the vast disparity between the rich and poor at the time. Social justice initially focused on issues such as the distribution of capital, property, and wealth due to the extreme levels of inequality and economic distress prevalent at the time, resulting from the European social class structure, which was visibly felt on our Islands.

Today, social justice has shifted towards a stronger emphasis on human rights and improving the lives of disadvantaged and marginalised groups that have historically faced discrimination in society. Many of these groups have been discriminated against on the basis of factors such as sex, age, wealth, ethnicity, heritage, social status, religion, and others.

Social justice has shifted towards a stronger emphasis on human rights and improving the lives of disadvantaged and marginalised groups.

Social justice often leads to efforts to redistribute wealth to some of the underprivileged groups through providing income, jobs, and education support and opportunities. Even here, today all such efforts have been made with regular consistency and are still being made in our country.

In 1971 the Malta Labour Party took over from the Nationalist Party. The ideology was very different and this brought great changes in the perspective of policies. Under the development of the new government, the focus of the plan was on human beings as the most important component of the economic structure of the nation. The improvement of the quality of this resource through education was central.

Since manufacturing was to increase its importance, the focus turned to technical education, emphasising the need to remove the stigma of inferiority associated with blue-collar jobs. Government then started building for inclusion of all society through a wide network of social security provisions and the full development of human resources. Such development was necessary not only at an individual level in order to provide adequate living conditions, but also as a means for the continuing development of the country as a whole.

While activists and advocates significantly influence the widespread emphasis on social justice in modern Malta, the actual implementation of social justice policies is necessarily left to the central government. It is responsible for shaping public policies to address social justice issues, and as a result, political factors influence the extent to which social justice plays a role in the policies shaped by the government and administrators of the day.

Social justice initiatives can be pursued through many different types of government programs via wealth and income redistribution, government subsidies, protected legal status in employment and granting even more civil liberties.

Social justice initiatives are commonly seen in our Labour administrations, which integrates them into their economic policies, as well as in the platforms of the Labour Movement’s ideology. With time, I have managed to discern no less than five main principles of social justice that are paramount to understanding better the political vision of this Labour government. These are access to resources, equity, participation, diversity, and human rights.

Genuine equality and social justice mean not treating everyone the same, but attending equally to everyone’s different needs.

Access to resources is an important principle of social justice and refers to the extent to which different socioeconomic groups receive equal access to give everyone an equal start in life.

Equity refers to how individuals are given tools specific to their needs and socioeconomic status in order to move towards similar outcomes.

Participation refers to how everyone in society is given a voice and opportunity to verbalise their opinions and concerns and have a role in any decision-making that affects their livelihood and standard of living.

Understanding diversity and appreciating the value of cultural differences are especially important because policymakers are often better able to construct policies that take into consideration differences that exist among different societal groups.

Finally, human rights are one of the most important principles of social justice and form a foundational part of the concept.

It is with all this historical background that this government has begun its work to build a social vision for the future with the concept of ‘A Social Vision for Malta 2035: shaping the future of our society’. 

The Labour government has committed itself to build upon the principles of social justice and solidarity, and on the social wealth that was created throughout the past few years. It intends to highlight various areas and a broad range of social measures for impacted sectors of our society, among whom families, children, youths, older persons, those at risk of poverty, persons with disabilities, those with addiction problems and LGBTIQ+ persons.

Everyone is entitled to a decent and dignified life. Above all, a person should have the capacity to attain his or her potential even if living in difficult social realities. Labour governments have always acknowledged that there are people with different abilities and that it is important to have somebody who can see that those who are in need, are taken into account.

Genuine equality and social justice mean not treating everyone the same, but attending equally to everyone’s different needs.

The future here is not only guaranteeing us a better life but also that the challenges faced by particularly vulnerable groups who require further and more specific attention, despite the improvements already made in the area, will be met.

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Frans Camilleri
Frans Camilleri
2 years ago

While I share many of Dr Said’s views, I am rather disappointed that the emphasis is almost exclusively on what government can do, with only one reference to the role of civil society players. There is, indeed, a role for government but, even though I come from the old school of socialism, I would rather think that it is now government listening to, and working closely with stakeholders, that can assure social equity. Not would I imply that the achievement of social justice is the monopoly of any party. That belongs to the tribalistic way of thinking, which is all too prevalent in Malta. Otherwise I enjoyed reading the article.