Majority of 52,000 non-EU workers in Malta on minimum wage, under tax threshold

Only 1.4 per cent reach average salary


Some 20,000 non-EU workers, mainly from Asia, Africa and other developing regions, work in Malta full-time but earn €875 a month, equivalent to the minimum wage, further increasing their risk of falling into poverty amid rising inflation and the high cost of living.

A further 14,000 earn under €16,000 a year, equivalent to €1,333 a month, and another 18,000 earn under €1,766 a month. Just 762 non-EU nationals in Malta earn more, according to figures given in parliament this week by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana.

The data he presented was based on tax declarations from 2022, which counted 52,106 third-country nationals working in Malta, but it is estimated there are thousands more working illegally and with even lower salaries.

In 2013, Caruana was the chairman of the government’s job agency, JobsPlus and had a big hand in engineering the current economic model, calling for more foreign labour to help grow the country’s economy.

Malta has since added 20,000 non-EU individuals to its workforce annually, mainly in the hotel, catering, construction, and healthcare sectors. Many of these workers are supplied by local agencies that arrange their visas and positions while taking a significant commission.

These agencies are largely unregulated and have increased despite calls for scrutiny.

Confirming how Malta’s economic model has been skewed towards cheap labour in the past years, Caruana told parliament this week that of the 52,106 non-EU workers currently in full-time employment, only 762 earn enough to pay their taxes at the highest rate of 35%.

The data shows that most third-country nationals do not qualify to pay taxes to the state. They do, however, contribute national insurance payments without any realistic prospect of being able to claim a pension when they retire.

Last June, Caruana said that Malta’s population should increase to 800,000 by 2040 to sustain its current ‘economic growth levels’.

With a population of just 600,000 (according to official statistics), many sectors of the economy and society are already at capacity, leading to problems with infrastructure, including electricity distribution, waste collection and sewage management.

It has also partly fuelled a construction boom, leading to rental costs going through the roof.

Many constituted bodies, including the Malta Chamber, the Malta Employers Association and others, have repeatedly called on the government to change the current economic model before it is too late.

The government, led by Prime Minister Robert Abela, has promised to reform the country’s reliance on foreign labour, including raising the minimum wage and changing the country’s economic model.

However, concrete measures still need to be implemented, and the Malta Chamber of Commerce has warned that hiking wages could accelerate inflation and “put the country on the path of implosion”.

Last week, The Shift reported that one in every six workers in Malta is paid just €1000 monthly. 

Malta’s workforce reached 290,000 last year, with the median income at €1,582 per month.


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4 months ago

Sorry but you don’t know what you’re saying. Business are thirsty for workers that they can’t find even with all these Third Country Nationals. If you reduce these workers who are the businesses going to employ???? They will have to close their doors. Did you consult with the employers association when you wrote this story? Did you consult with the business community ? Obviosuly no!!

Caroline Muscat
4 months ago
Reply to  Logic

This is the reporting of statistics presented in parliament. The concerns of the Chamber and Malta Employers Association have been reported in other stories.

Charles Bartolo
Charles Bartolo
4 months ago
Reply to  Logic

The primary reason many companies hire these individuals is not solely due to offering low wages. In some cases, certain supermarkets pay as little as €3.75 per hour, subjecting employees to grueling 24-hour shifts without any days off and, in some instances, even 16-hour shifts. This is not only due to low wages but also because it allows these companies to treat their staff in an exploitative and degrading manner, akin to modern-day slavery.

4 months ago

Malta’s workforce reached 290,000 last year,
Something is drastically wrong in these numbers.
It is easy to get a breakdown of where these work,
Government contractors
Private Health
Manufacturing Industry
Service Industry.
IT& Gaming

Any chance this data is squeezed out of JobPlus?

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
4 months ago

One issue the Minister/Government never mention is that at least half the earnings are remitted overseas to the families of these workers and don’t contribute added value to the local economy.
One must also not forget that Labour had opposed membership of the EU as it would attract a large influx of Sicilians to take over the jobs of the Maltese. Instead the Labour government imported thousands from Asiatic and non EU countries and created commissions/agency fees for its friends, albeit it attracted mafiosi from Italy to launder money through restaurants, casinos and gambling companies.
We were never so good Minister Fearne told us.

Last edited 4 months ago by Godfrey Leone Ganado
4 months ago

Our local labour market has been stripped because Government has employed so many in the civil service in a clear vote catching exercise. Creating the need to import foreign labour.

Our natural go to should have been Europe however, the prospect of engaging people on the cheap has been attractive. It also presented itself with yet another opportunity for a racket. These agencies charge €10k a time to help these TCNs get visas here. With little scope back in their own countries, they pay this in the hope of a better life for themselves.

However the impact on our little country is disastrous. We are breaking at the seams. Our infrastructure is under strain. Traffic has practically at a deadlock. Housing is unaffordable. Sanitary conditions are worsening. Our language and culture slowly disappearing.

So what to do? Stop with immediate effect all visas to new applications by TCNs. Do not renew. Investigate all work permits issued to ensure conditions are being adhered to. And above all slim down the civil service back to what it should be. This should be undertaken under strict conditions so that all jobs that are unnecessary are axes with no severance packages. Pie in the sky perhaps but something needs to be done.

4 months ago

This stinks well on the gov side. All the lazy Maltese acolytes are enjoying the civil service doing nothing. They are present in the morning and leave hour later. Bullshitt.

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