Community Work Scheme a ‘numbers exercise’ to lower unemployment figures

National Audit Office report says the Scheme run by the government and the GWU costing taxpayers millions per year has little tangible result


The National Audit Office has warned the Community Work Scheme being run between the government and the General Workers’ Union could amount to a mere exercise in keeping national unemployment figures low, confirming a long-held suspicion that the scheme for which the public is paying millions every year has little tangible result.

The Scheme, the NAO warned in a report published on Monday evening, “is being rendered as an end in itself rather than a stepping stone towards gainful and sustainable employment” – keeping unemployment figures low by having people seeking work shifted onto the scheme.

“Thus, every effort needs to be undertaken to ensure that this Scheme produces the desired outcomes, namely that improvements are made in the applicants’ employability skills, rather than it ending up simply as a numbers exercise whereby persons are just struck off from the unemployment list and shifted on to this Scheme.”

If the CWS is a “numbers exercise” aimed at diluting unemployment figures as the NAO suggests it might be, the numbers back up the suggestion.

As of September, 955 people were registering for unemployment across Malta and Gozo, while the CWS, as of last July, counted 1,169 members – people who would otherwise be registering for work and being added to unemployment figures but who are instead being indirectly employed by the government through the GWU.

Obviously concerned about the situation it found at the CWS, the NAO made it perfectly clear that it “intends to revisit this subject matter in due course with a thorough evaluation through a new performance audit”.

The NAO notes how the GWU-run Scheme is failing rather miserably in its main objective of helping people who have been unemployed to reintegrate into the job market.  It highlights how between January 2016 and July 2022, 1,476 people had joined the Scheme but only just over 8% ended up leaving for alternative employment.

“This statistic,” the NAO said, “shows that the Scheme has not yet attained its aim of preparing and encouraging the vast majority of the Scheme’s participants to seek employment in higher value-added economic sectors.”

The report was a follow-up to the NAO’s 2019 evaluation of the Scheme, and, according to this fresh assessment, it still appears to not have any goals regarding cost-effectiveness.

Source: National Audit Office

By running the scheme, the GWU is making annual profits of hundreds of thousands of euro – it earns more with every individual added to the Scheme. The government, in turn, is injecting several million euros into it every year.

As the NAO found, “The CWS has not yet established targets against which to benchmark productivity in terms of objective criteria and pre-determined goals.

“Given that the cost-effectiveness of the Scheme is greatly dependent on productivity levels, then ensuring optimal outputs from the Scheme’s participants at their respective placement becomes imperative.”

The Scheme was first set up in 2009 amid the global financial crisis, and it was reinvented in 2016 by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana when he was at the time chairing JobsPlus.

Its apparent scope is to offer temporary assignments to the long-term unemployed for a restricted amount of time until they can find other means of gainful employment.

Caruana had initially said the scheme was to be capped at 580, that no more workers would be added, and that it would be wound down once all the participants had found alternative private sector employment.

But instead of it winding down, the scheme has today grown to almost 1,200 people, with ministers and junior ministers reportedly having placed several dozen constituents on the Scheme’s books without explanation. Half of the Scheme’s members now hail from Gozo.


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15 days ago

And to buy votes, I suspect is the main aim!

15 days ago

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Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
13 days ago
Reply to  Joseph

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Wiehed biss fost dawk il-famuzi tlieta qieghed jaghmel xi haga, izda kollha kemm huma qeghdin jihallsu – u minn flus il-poplu!

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