Malta’s Low Birth Rate – An Existential Challenge
Conference 13/07/2023 - 13/07/2023
On the 13th July, MEA organised a conference at the Parliament Building about the low birth rate and its impact on the future of Maltese society. The session, which was televised live, was chaired by the Hon. Angelo Farrugia and Hon. David Agius. Various speakers from employer bodies, unions, civil society, women organisations, academics, youth organisations and politicians tackled the issue from different perspectives and the presentations provided a wealth of information that could serve as a basis for a holistic approach to policy actions. The President Emeritus, Hon. Marie Louise Coleiro Preca was also one of the speakers.
In her opening address, Ms. Joanne Bondin, MEA president, stated that: ‘The worst thing that could happen to our society is that we are carried by the current, overwhelmed by forces beyond our control. The easiest way out will be to accept that trends of low birth rates are happening in many industrialised countries, and simply resign to our fate. I argue that if we say that there is no need for actions and measures, this should be a conscious decision and not the result of inertia. On the other hand, if we believe that it would be in our nation’s interest to increase the fertility rate, then we need to assess carefully the factors that are contributing to low fertility, and take the necessary actions to reverse the situation’.
The MEA has been at the forefront of raising awareness about Malta’s rapidly changing demographic environment. In 2017 it published a seminal position paper which stressed the need for a strategy to deal with a situation whereby on one hand we have one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and on the other we also have a rapidly expanding population which can cause infrastructural, environmental and social pressures. Just six years later we are living the projections that were forecasted in that paper, which was discussed at length at the MCESD and also with the major political parties.
The Association is compiling a report on the proceedings of this conference to serve as a basis for further action. We believe that this issue is also critical for employers due to its impact on the labour supply, composition and quality of the labour force. We are already in a situation where more than 30% of employees in the private sector are not Maltese. Policy actions that are being taken in other countries to increase fertility often involve employers and conditions of employment. We need to ensure that even if an extension of family friendly measures is required as part of national policy, this would be the result of a distribution of existing benefits, and not an addition to overall entitlements that may have negative repercussions on the country’s competitiveness. This point was highlighted by MEA DG Joseph Farrugia and MEA consultant Mr. Kevin Borg.
There has already been considerable interest by many organisations to collaborate with MEA on further initiatives related to this issue, and Parliament will also be preparing a publication in conjunction with the Association which will compile a full report of the conference, highlighting the salient points and made by the various speakers.
The full event may be viewed here.
Presentation by Joseph Farrugia (Director General, MEA)
Presentation by Kirsten Cutajar Miller (Consultant, MEA)
Presentation by Dr Marie Briguglio (Economist)
Presentation by Dr Patricia Bonello (Chief Research Officer, Discern)
Venue: Parliament of Malta
Contact: Anton Vella
Email: [email protected]