The labour force continued to grow in the first quarter of 2012 when, as statistics released by the NSO show, the supply of workers increased by 0.9 percent. Most of the increase was absorbed by the number of employed persons which rose by almost two percent to 171,270, whilst the number of unemployed fell slightly to 11,040 for an unemployment rate of 6 percent.
However, it is striking that the number of inactive persons of working age still number almost as much as the labour force itself. In fact, in the first three months of the year there were 174,800 inactive persons – almost 49 percent of the population of working age. That was a almost half a percentage point lower than in the same period last year, but still a far cry from the EU’s target.
Women seem to be making the running in the employment market at the moment, when their number increased by 7.8 percent to 62,340. Men appear to have had the bad end of the stick, as their employed number fell by 1.2 percent to 108,930.
However, it is clear where the increase in the working population must come from. Whereas 77.4 percent of all men of working age are participants in the labour market, only 46.8 percent of women are. The cultural attitude to work amongst women has not changed much. A good percentage of women (46.6 percent) work whilst they are still between 15-24 years old, compared to 53.5 percent for men, but their activity rate falls well behind their male counterparts’ between 25-54 years (58.2 percent versus 93.8 percent) and even more between 55-64 years old (14.6 percent versus 51.6 percent).
The Labour Force Survey confirms how right the PL is to emphasise youth unemployment, even if our record here is a far cry from the ravages lack of employment is inflicting on young people elsewhere in the EU. During the first quarter of the year, the unemployment rate amongst 15-24 year olds was 13.1 percent, compared to 4.8 percent for the rest of the working age population.
The Maltese economy has meanwhile deepened its dependence on services for its employment opportunities. The percentage of people working in industry (including construction) has fallen by 2.5 percentage points over the year to 22.5 percent.
The wage gap between men and women has continued to increase. Whereas women’s average annual salary was 85.7 percent of men’s salary last year, this year it fell to 84.4 percent. The gap is strangely particularly wider (22 percent) in the sector comprising the wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transport and communications.
One reason for the wage gap could be that a much higher percentage of working women (20.8 percent versus only 6.1 percent for men) work part-time or full-time with reduced hours (6.1 percent amongst women versus a negligible number among men).