In order to secure a better work-life balance, the Maltese Government has introduced policies which widely promote family-friendly measures including provision of free and affordable child-care. Through initiatives being undertaken in the public sector, Government is setting an example which the private sector is being encouraged to emulate.
Gender balance and female participation in the labour market
Malta continued to register steady progress in the female employment rate for the 20-64 years age group which in 2011 stood at 43.4%, an increase of 1.8% over the previous year. Eurostat data for Malta for the year 2011 show that in the 20-64 years age group, 25.7% of the women opted for part-time employment, in contrast to 6.7% of the men who held part-time employment. The inactivity rate reflects similar patterns of gender bias and it stood at 53.8% for women and 16.6% for men.
In relation to female employment, apart from the European Social Fund (ESF) campaign NISTA’ – Sharing Work-Life Responsibilities
(also one of the measures included in Malta's Reform Programme
- measure 22.214.171.124 - Publicity campaign to attract more women to the labour market), an ESF project entitled Unlocking the Female Potential
(The objectives of this project contribute to the achievement of one of the measures which feature within Malta's National Reform Programme - measure 1.3.4 - Ensuring Better Utilisation of the Economy's Labour Potential) entrusted to the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE)
aims to: (a) enhance equal opportunities for women and men at the place of work; (b) address issues that impact female participation in the labour market, and (c) raise awareness on this subject matter. Through this project, the NCPE raises awareness on gender equality at the workplace through the Equality Mark
certification which has to date been awarded to 39 companies.
Increasing childcare provision for young children
A European Commission report
highlighted the need for wider care provision for children below 3 years of age. Eurostat figures for Malta show that in 2010, 11% of children in this age group were enrolled in formal childcare, of which 4% attended formal childcare for 30 or more hours per week (EU averages of 28% and 14% respectively). For children aged 3 to mandatory school age, a total of 74% were enrolled in kindergartens and pre-school centres in 2010 (EU average of 84%).
In Malta, free inclusive education is provided for young children in kindergartens and aims to improve the affordability of childcare provision for young children. The Foundation for Educational Services (FES) within the Ministry of Education and Employment, operates 10 childcare centres which cater for infants and toddlers of up to 3 years of age. Moreover the FES set up ‘Klabb 3-16
’, which is an after-school hours’ service for school-age children between 3 and 16 years. In the coming months, the Government will be opening additional ‘Klabb 3-16’ centres to reach a total of 21 centres by January 2013.
Increased support for families in times of economic crisis
The at-risk-of poverty rate of the Maltese population has seen a marginal increase from 19.9% in 2010 to 21.1% in 2011. In this regard, the following measures undertaken by the Maltese Government, including the 2012 Budget, are of particular relevance:
- an increase of €100 in the rate of children allowance to all parents of children under 16 years of age, (payable at €350 per year, per child) including children/young adults aged between 16 and 21 years of age who are still studying but are not in employment, and higher rates paid to parents whose yearly income does not exceed €24,226;
- a new income tax category under the sub-heading ‘parent computation’ through which working parents will be able to save up to €420 each, per year in income tax, aimed at working parents raising children as well as at working parents of children aged between 16 and 18 years who are not in employment (in the case of children who are still studying at a tertiary level, the age limit is extended to 21 years);
- an annual grant of €300 awarded to persons over 80 years of age residing with their families or in their own accommodation, with the aim of encouraging elderly persons to live independently in their homes or with their families, rather than in elderly residential care;
- persons in receipt of a severe disability pension who wish to continue working are now entitled to continue receiving their pension provided their earnings from work remain below the national minimum wage;
- an incentive in the form of an income tax credit for parents who send their children to independent (privately run) schools of (a) up to €1,300 for kindergarten or primary school (€100 increase from year 2011), and (b) up to €2,300 for secondary school (€700 increase from year 2011), whilst parents sending their children to childcare centres also enjoy income tax deductions of up to €1,300 (€300 increase from 2011);
- measures for elderly persons living in private residential homes approved by the Inland Revenue Department, or persons paying for their parent’s elderly care, who are now eligible for an income tax deduction equivalent to the amount actually paid for the accommodation in the residential home, or €2,500 per year (whichever is less);
- the removal of value added tax on private nursing and home help services;
a scheme introduced to encourage persons with disabilities to enter the labour market by taking up posts within local councils, to create new employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and enhance their active inclusion in the labour market.
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2012.
Increased Maternity Leave
Following the Budget 2012, maternity leave in Malta was increased from 14 weeks to 16 weeks as of 1 January 2012, and it is to be extended to eighteen weeks as of 1 January 2013. Both employed women who avail themselves of their full maternity leave entitlement and self-occupied women entitled to the maternity benefit are eligible to a maternity leave benefit which covers these additional weeks, at a rate of €160 per week, the cost of which is being borne by Government for two years.
In Malta, private sector employees can benefit from up to four months of unpaid parental leave. This leave may be availed of until the child reaches 8 years of age and is granted on a non-transferable basis. However, collective agreements entered into between employers and the employees (or their representatives), may provide for more favourable conditions beyond the minimum requirements by law.
Public administration employees are entitled to up to one year of unpaid parental leave on the grounds of birth, adoption, legal custody and foster care of children who are under 8 years of age. If both parents are public administration employees
, the parental leave chosen may be shared between the two.
Other family-friendly measures
Public administration employees are allowed a maximum of 5 years unpaid career break to be utilised for the care of children under 8 years of age. Other family-friendly measures such as working reduced hours, tele-work and flexi-time working schedules are examples of family-friendly measures available to public administration employees as well as to some employees in the private sector.