Chamber of Commerce launches recommendations for national workforce strategy

Malta Chamber President Marisa Xuereb

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 August, 2021 at 2:51 pm by Andre Camilleri

The Malta Chamber of Commerce today launched its recommendations on the National Workforce Strategy, which is based on four key challenges the industry is facing.

Addressing an activity held at the chamber’s headquarters in Valletta, president Marisa Xuereb and CEO Marthese Portelli outlined the recommendations which were drafted to address deficiencies in the employment sector in the short and medium term.

Malta Chamber CEO Marthese Portelli

The recommendations are as follows:

1. Encouraging active labour market participation by increasing the female participation rate, promoting active ageing, and focusing on early school leavers.

2. Tackling skills gaps and mismatches to address systemic gaps and incentivising upskilling and reskilling.

3. Attracting and retaining local and foreign talent to fill the gaps within the Maltese labour market.

4. Improving productivity and workers’ added value and addressing under-employment in certain sectors.

The implementation timeframe for the recommendations presented in this report have been divided into the short-term (two to three years) and medium-term (five to seven years).

In total, the strategy contains 56 recommendations, which were then linked to 48 quantifiable success measures. The strategy seeks immediate action to ensure a more competitive and resilient economy, the chamber said.

In a recent CEO Confidence Index survey carried out by the Malta Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with Vistage, 77% of businesses reported having trouble finding employees of varying skills, subsequently impacting their respective operations.

Out of a total number of 199 businesses, 61% experience hiring challenges which are limiting their company’s ability to operate at full capacity. Furthermore, 64% reported that staff were looking for higher salaries. 40% struggled to find skilled workers and additionally, 40% stated that they were encountering challenges to find professional staff. Such challenges are thus putting a further strain on businesses throughout several sectors.

The recommended strategic actions cited by the chamber seek to introduce measures that promote Early Intervention – for e.g., children whose parents are not socioeconomically active or in education are excluded from the Free Childcare Scheme, despite being the most in need of additional support and being most likely to benefit from similar programmes. The systemic skills also seek to extend employment services to underemployment and not limited to unemployment only.

The target should be to decrease the rate of early school leavers to below 10% by 2025 and to increase the total percentage of individuals who complete at least post-secondary education by 10% by 2025.

To attract talent, the chamber proposed adjustments in the tax-benefit system by overhauling the married tax rate category, which, in its current structure, disincentivises the second spouse (traditionally female) from gainful employment.

The Chamber is also calling for an effort to increase the total percentage of females who occupy full-time positions or self-employment by 10% by 2025, apart from other targets.

To retain talent, the chamber wants to introduce measures or incentives that encourage more balanced utilisation of leave entitlements between women and men after childbirth. This will ensure a better balance of parenting-related leave uptake between the genders.

The Chamber is also calling for the introduction of fiscal incentives to encourage females in part-time employment to switch to full-time and older employees to return or stay in the labour force for as long as possible.

The Chamber wants to identify educational pathways for certain roles that can be occupied by older individuals who have the experience but not necessarily the formal certification that can offer a fast track into employment. Here the targets that were cited were to increase the percentage of foreign employees who remain in employment beyond the second year to 30%.

With regards to the improvements of the skill sector the chamber wants to increase the opportunities for females to avail themselves of upskilling/reskilling opportunities to progress in their career or remain employable. Government should also seek to extend the Free Childcare Scheme to complement such initiatives the chamber said.

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