In recent years, Malta has been hailed as a success story when it comes to employment opportunities. And yet, work is much more than an activity which generates wealth and guarantees a source of income. It is an integral part of our wellbeing and has a decisive influence on the quality of life of individuals and families. As such, we are duty-bound to go beyond the headline numbers and analyse in more detail the following challenges which hinder workers and their families from leading a dignified life through work:
– An alarming increase in in-work poverty. The proportion of working people who earn less than 60% of the national median income has increased from 5.2% in 2012 to 7.4% in 2020. No matter how hard individuals are willing to work, too many people seem to be trapped in poverty. Unfortunately, there is still a huge disparity between wages at the lower end of the salary scale and the minimum income required for a decent living.
– Statistics, highlighted by Beyond GDP (https://jp.church.mt/beyond-gdp/), revealing that the percentage of people working long hours has increased. In 2019 the number of people working long hours spiked and for the first time since 2007, it exceeded the EU average. Several initiatives presented in the last Budget, also reward those who want to work more. However, this could easily result in an unhealthy work-life balance, with all the consequences this brings with it.
– The lack of rights associated with new, more flexible forms of employment. Flexible work should not be equated with precarious work. The legal framework which is in place to safeguard the legal and working conditions of all workers not always seem to be applicable in the cases of, for example, platform workers and those on zero-hour contracts. The resultant lack of stability and security means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to buy property and start a family.
– A blurring of line between professional and private life. More than the right to disconnect many workers feel the duty to remain connected, leading to a decrease in quality time for family and leisure activities.
Against this challenging backdrop, the Justice and Peace Commission invites all stakeholders and policymakers to promote a more dignified world of work for all. Within the framework of an economy at the service of integral human development, such a vision should include the following characteristics:
– Dignified salaries. All wages should be sufficient to support a family and achieve a standard of living that is in line with human dignity.
– Rights of all workers are safeguarded, through the promotion of more stable and secure employment and the updating of legislation to cater for the new, more flexible forms of employment. When necessary, workers should be provided with the necessary reskilling and upskilling opportunities.
– Jobs that care for creation, within an economic model that respects the triple bottom line. in addition to profits, firms should be committed to people and be concerned with making a positive impact on the planet.
– A participative and inclusive world of work centred on full employment which helps people in their personal development whilst participating through social dialogue in the formulation of work policies and the authentic development of society.
This article first appeared as a blogpost on newsbook.com.mt