Over the last decade, the size of Malta’s workforce grew by more than half with the number of gainfully occupied reaching almost 275,000. The increase is the result of a sharp population increase driven by an influx of foreign workers but is also due to a higher participation rate among the Maltese.

Details on the demographic trends of the workforce of the Maltese Islands were divulged in the third and final report covering the 2021 census.

It transpires that the number of individuals aged 15 years and over who were in employment rose from 171,855 in 2011 to 273,955 in 2021 – an increase of 102,100. Apart from the population increase the rise was also in terms of the participation rate in the employment market which soared from 48.3% in 2011 to 60.6% ten years later.

Apart from the evident correlation between the labour status and respondents’ age, noteworthy shifts in the distribution of employment status based on gender have also surfaced. Specifically, while a higher proportion of males were economically active, the gap between the two sexes has progressively diminished over the last decade. In fact, in 2021, a higher percentage of females (52.9%) were economically active compared to 2011 (36.2%), and fewer were taking care of the house and/or family (25.9% in 2021 compared to 41.8% in 2011).

This trend is further testament to the success of the labour market policy which had been piloted by UHM Voice of the Workers and which was subsequently taken onboard by the government.

Despite the small geographic size of the Maltese Islands, there were nonetheless significant regional variations in employment rates. In localities having an ageing population, notably those within the Southern Harbour (Bormla, Floriana, Ħal Luqa, Ħal Tarxien, Ħaż-Żabbar, Il-Birgu, Il-Fgura, Il-Kalkara, Il-Marsa, Ix-Xgħajra, L-Isla, Raħal Ġdid, Santa Luċija, Valletta) and in Gozo, there were lower activity rates and a higher prevalence of retired individuals. These two districts exhibited the lowest rates for employed individuals, standing at 55.1% and 56.6%, respectively, compared to 62.3% in other districts. They also recorded the highest rates for retired persons, with figures of 16.4% and 18.1%, respectively, compared to 13% in other districts.

The 2021 census also reveals interesting information on the location of the places of work. Birkirkara which incorporates the Mrieħel industrial zone tops the list with 17,553 respondents saying they work within the borders of this locality, followed by Valletta with 13,682 and Msida (which incorporates Mater Dei Hospital and University) 13,596. Qormi, Luqa and Sliema are also in the top places.

Such geographical distribution correlates with well-known traffic junctions which in recent years have become notoriously famous for traffic congestion. Clearly, the existing road network servicing this part of the island is being overwhelmed with employees commuting to work.  On the other hand, there were just five employees who listed their place of work as being in Fontana.

The number of employees who may consider themselves lucky for not having to negotiate through the morning and afternoon rush hours to commute to work – as they work from home – totalled 18,122. Approximately 10.3% (28,163) of workers had no designated workplace, a pattern that was more prevalent among males (14.3%) than females (4.7%).

About two-thirds of Gozitans worked in the sister island while 12.8% had no fixed workplace. Conversely, 127 individuals residing in Malta commuted to Gozo for work-related purposes. A total of 1,196 persons were employed overseas but returned regularly to their family residence or dwelling situated in Malta.