‘Unless wages increase, hospitality industry will keep going round in circles’ – Finance Minister

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 November, 2021 at 2:40 pm by Andre Camilleri

Business owners must offer better wages to their staff to tackle the “fundamental” issue of unavailable workers in the hospitality sector, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said on Thursday.

During a seminar on human resources in the catering industry, he said that despite the government’s continual effort to attract more people to the hospitality industry, as well as sustaining many people’s jobs during the pandemic through the wage supplement, if wages do not increase the industry will “keep going round in circles”.

Noting that even pre-pandemic times, though Malta would import roughly 20,000 foreigners a year, the outfall was approximately 18,000.

During the seminar, executive Director at E-Cubed Consultants Ltd. Gordon Cordina presented Malta’s human resources hospitality statistics which was then followed by a panel discussion.

In 2020 the industry’s revenue was at €278 million, a drop of 48%, and the industry’s value added in 2020 was recorded at €75 million, a drop of 69%.

ACE (Association of Catering Establishments) president Reuben Buttigieg, noted that Malta’s hospitality industry was at its peak in 2018 − recording 2,200 enterprises and a revenue of 560.3mn, an annual growth of 10% since 2014 − but that besides the effect of the pandemic, throughout the years the Maltese population had developed a detrimental mind-set influencing youngsters that hospitality is not a worthy career option. 

“Malta has created this situation, it is our fault to some extent,” said Buttigieg. 

“We have created the mind-set that hospitality is not a good career or that there is something wrong in this sector,” he added.

It was noted that in 2020, 63% of the industry’s workers were on full time basis which displays how almost half of the people who work in the industry are not choosing a career in catering.

Hospitality consultant Derrick Habit expressed his disapproval with catering establishments scouting for staff that accepts low wages.

He noted that this has a detrimental effect not only on business, as customers want to receive good quality service, but that it negatively impact the industry as a whole – resulting in a situation wherein skilled people do not find jobs paying adequate wages.

Habit added that the official recorded drop of approximately 800 workers in the industry in 2020 was inaccurate since many of the industry workers were not being registered and therefore were not eligible for the government’s Covid-19 wage supplement.

“Not registering people in the industry has been a big mistake,” stated Habit.

During the seminar, the topic of sustainability in the catering industry was also discussed.

Chris Hammet, chef and restaurant owner of Hammett’s Maċina Restaurant expressed that the industry needed a much better farm to fork system and that local farmers should be incentivised to grow produce that is not currently grown in Malta like flour and sugar.

On her part, Malta Chamber CEO, Marthese Portelli said that industry should focus on retaining Malta’s uniqueness which could only be successful with the joint effort of all the respective ministries. 

“This industry can save our country, help us protect Malta’s uniqueness,” she said.

“We have unique things in our country and we need to protect them, for example our historical buildings”.

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