3.1 General context
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Malta has been exhibiting a positive economic performance with low unemployment rates. As illustrated in the table below, the unemployment rate in Malta in 2015 stood at less than five per cent, as opposed to the EU average of over nine per cent. Moreover, its employment rate has continuously risen throughout the last decade. The employment rate in Malta significantly increased from 61.6 per cent in 2011 to almost 68 per cent as of the end of 2015. These increases are backed up by the positive economic growth, which is further enhancing the demand for expanding the local labour market.
Unemployment rate: Age 20 to 64 years (Eurostat)
Employment rate: Age 20 to 64 years (Eurostat)
The Maltese government has in place several projects that aim at enhancing work opportunities while upskilling and reskilling the current working age population in order to equip said individuals with the necessary tools and transversal skills to enter the world of work. Such initiatives under the active labour market policies include schemes such as the work exposure, traineeships, work placement scheme, youth guarantee, investing in skills, access to employment and a free childcare service for parents/guardians in education or employment. All these schemes are administrated by Jobsplus, the Maltese Public Employment Service. Additionally there have been various changes to the welfare system which promotes the concept of Making Work Pay. The concept focuses on rewarding people who find employment by making participation in the labour market more attractive through initiatives such as the Tapering of Benefits and In-work Benefits.
Current youth employment situation within the labour market
With an unemployment rate of 9.1 per cent in 2018, Malta is placed among the countries with the lowest unemployment rate within the EU. The EU28 unemployment rate in 2018 stood at 15.2 per cent, representing a 6.1 percentage point difference from Malta. Compared to 2011, when the unemployment rate was 13.3 per cent, Malta saw a decrease of 4.2 per cent.
Unemployment rate: Age 15 to 24 years (%) (Eurostat)
Various initiatives have been introduced to encourage youth participation in education, training and employment. Through the Youth Guarantee, a second chance at education, work exposure and traineeship, as well as counselling and guidance on how to transit from inactivity into the labour market, is offered.
Apart from the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, a research project, the Employability Index, was conducted to determine vertical and horizontal mismatches experienced by graduates when entering the labour market.
This information can be used by both prospective tertiary students and local authorities as a means of career guidance: while in the process of choosing the right career path, one can evaluate the risk of vertical and horizontal mismatches for each course. Through this means, students can analyse and determine which courses have the lowest chances of leading to job mismatch.
Young people: Young people are categorized as persons aged between 15 and 24 years old.
NEETs: NEETs is the abbreviated form of the label given to young people who are neither in employment nor in education and training. In practice, it corresponds to the percentage of the population of a given age group and gender who are currently not employed, and not involved in any form of education or training.
Active groups and inactive groups: Active population, includes both employed (employees and self-employed) and unemployed people, but not the economically inactive, such as pre-school children, school age children, students and pensioners, provided that they are not working and not available or looking for work even if of working-age.
Registering/Unemployed groups: Registering groups includes people who are not working but actively seeking to find employment by registering with Malta’s Public Employment Services - Jobsplus.
An unemployed person, according to Eurostat is defined as someone who is currently aged between 15 to 74 years old; is without work during the reference week, who is available to start working within the next two weeks (or has already found a job to start within the next three months) or was actively seeking employment at some time in the last four weeks.
Vulnerable groups: Vulnerable groups, according to the Inclusive Employment Services at Jobsplus, are persons who, at present, fall within the socially disadvantaged categories of former substance abusers, former prison inmates or who are experiencing other socio-economic difficulties, and are therefore in need of customized care and support vis-à-vis training and guidance towards employment and job retention.
In addition to the above definitions, Malta’s Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan also defines what constitutes good-quality offers. A good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship refers to the opportunity given to young people through the Youth Guarantee during the four months period of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. For each type of offer, whether it is employment, training or education, criteria are established on whether or not the activity is applicable for the young person to participate in.
If a job opportunity is offered, it needs to last for at least six months. Moreover, if the employer is engaging the participant through the Youth Guarantee, the employer is legally bound to complete an engagement form and needs to submit it to the Public Employment Services.
If the young person is provided with an offer of traineeship, the traineeship needs to be set on a limited period of work practice and whether or not the trainee is paid, the traineeship needs to offer learning and training components. Thus, the young person needs to be engaged on the basis that he or she is gaining practical and professional experience which will in turn facilitate their transition into regular employment.
If an offer of education is provided, the course needs to be issued from a recognised training institution (public or private). Furthermore the course should lead to an educational attainment of minimum Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF) Level 2. Short courses are not considered ‘quality’ offers. Programmes targeted at early school-leavers and low-skilled young people meeting quality requirements of curricula, assessment and validation of learning outcomes, and which lead to a recognised qualification, are also considered to be ‘quality’ offers.
For young people with a disability, an offer of supported or sheltered employment providing practical employment training in various sectors of the labour market, and including the assistance of job coaches is deemed to be a ‘good quality’ offer.
Self-initiated traineeships, education or employment opportunities are also considered as an offer subject to participants demonstrating that the criteria for assessing a ‘quality’ offer as established in other forms of ‘offers’ are met. This means that a traineeship offer needs to be accompanied by a written agreement between the employer, participant and the Public Employment Services; an education initiative needs to lead to a qualification from a recognised institution; and an employment offer needs to be regulated by an engagement form submitted to the Public Employment Services.
The NEET Activation Scheme is part of the youth guarantee and it starts off with profiling, behavioural training, guidance on employment, development of communication skills, CV writing and interview skills. Following the initial phase, young people are requested to either further their training through continued education or participate in a work exposure which would eventually lead to an offer of traineeship.