Adressing HR challenges
The labour force is a fluid and dynamic structure that takes the shape and form of the population which establishes it. This ever-changing and evolving socio-economic component determines the skills employers need to work within their enterprises, and it also determines the extent and type of investment via formal and on-the-job training enterprises need to undertake to upskill or reskill. Changes in the quantum and quality of the labour force directly impact the industry, its output and value-added, and hence our country’s productivity and competitiveness. The past decade has seen our labour force consolidated and strengthened through fast-paced increases in participation rates for all cohorts, especially women.
There have also been several reforms relating to the ageing cohorts’ continued participation in the labour market. Between 2012 and 2022, Maltese workers increased by 19,000. During the same period, the labour force was also significantly widened through workers from beyond our shores, both of European Union nationality and Third Country Nationals, bringing along a varied mix of cultural norms, experiences, expectations and needs and, thereby, significant social and economic adjustment challenges. Indeed, in the last ten years, Malta saw 190,000 foreigners form part of its labour force for a given amount of time. Non-Maltese workers made up 27.9% of the labour force at the end of September 2022.
In 2021, the logistics sector, which includes freight transport by road, sea and coastal freight water transport, freight air transport, warehousing and storage, and postal and courier services, accounted for nearly 4% of total registered business units and 8,185 employees. In the same year, foreign workers accounted for 18.7% of employees, up from 2.9% in 2010. Half of these foreign workers were EU nationals. The need for foreign workers resulted from an economy that has grown at phenomenal rates, outpacing the population growth, which is also ailing from low fertility rates. It has also resulted from a need for a wide-ranging variety of locally unavailable skills. Our desire and will to continue expanding led to these demands.
Aside from the significant and visible impact that such a fast-paced increase in our population is having on all forms of infrastructure, employers and Human Resource managers are equally concerned about the impact that this influx is having on the quality of the labour force and the quality of the service and product offering. Concerns are varied and mainly stem from workers’ attrition rates and the length of their stay on the islands, where around 25% of non-Maltese workers spend only 12 months in employment and, on average 22 months in continuous employment. Other concerns, particularly for the logistics sector, also relate to licensing and regulations, health and safety, training and education, communication, cultural issues and integration.
For this reason, the Malta Employers’ Association, as it has done on several matters, organised an event involving parties, including Government bodies, to lead the discussion at a national level on foreign workers in the logistics sector. Our Chief Administrator, Carm Cachia, moderated the table of discussion about Foreign Workers in the Logistics Industry – Digital Transition.