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Opinion | Wednesday, 24 March 2010 Issue. 156

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No policy on work permits

If there is a policy on work permits, it certainly is not a transparent one and the recent statistics published by the ETC makes one’s mind boggle more than ever before.

Work permits in Malta are very subjective and not the result of a clear and transparent policy. Otherwise, how can you explain the fact that, in 2009, work permits were given to foreigners in the following jobs/professions: butchers, fishmongers, furniture makers, clerks, drivers, architects, engineers, masons, chefs, labourers, nail technicians, pipe fitters, plumbers, hairdressers, waiters, welders, nannies, sprayer assistants, tile layers, swimming pool attendants, cleaners, kitchen hands, delivery persons, care workers, gardeners, money-lenders and housekeepers?
For the ETC to be convinced that there are no Maltese who can drive, clean, or be a swimming pool attendant, or any of the jobs I just mentioned, than the ETC is being either taken for a ride by those who are on the dole, or it is not providing the training so that these jobs be taken by the Maltese.
I do not know how these foreigners managed to get their work permit, because it is something inconceivable that out of the 7,000 plus who are unemployed, the ETC is not able to find labourers, nail technicians, plumbers, hairdressers, waiters, welders,
nannies, sprayer assistants , tile layers, cleaners, etc, etc.
I can understand that there may be a cushy excuse regarding language in the case of waiters; but I am sure that giving work permits for nannies, sprayers, cleaners and the other jobs has nothing to do with language or with experience.
I am actually surprised how the Chamber of Architects, the Chamber of Pharmacists and that of the Engineers do not lift a finger to check if the work permits given to periti, pharmacists and engineers are given to those with the right qualifications – if they have a warrant in Malta and how they are given work permits in the first place.

If anyone needed a certificate of how our educational system is gearing up for the needs of the country, that certificate is being given by the ETC when it issues work permits to foreigners to jobs which do not need any particular skill, or even to those which need the skills which traditionally were always carried out by the Maltese.
If Malta does not have enough sprayers’ assistants, tilers, blacksmiths, plumbers and the other trades mentioned, it means that there is no education for tradesmen and I for one have long been advocating the fact that certain trades must continue to be taught at secondary school level. It is unfair to discard the students whose love for a trade exceeds that for books, and then expect them to get good results to make it to MCAST.
It is a mistake to continue to believe that students consist only of university and Mcast students, and it is a pity how we are forsaking those who are want to learn a trade, stubbornly insisting that they must study Shakespeare instead.

For work permits to be issued to nannies, care workers, cleaners, labourers, machine operators, hairdressers and such like – when our own hairdressers are closing shop, and when labourers, machine operators, cleaners and care workers are crying for a job – it means that there is something wrong with the system somewhere: either those applying for work permits know their way around, or the ETC is not being cautious enough in granting work permits.

But the cherry on the cake is that in 2009, the ETC gave works permits to hunters and bird trappers! No, there is no problem with your eyesight: hunters and bird trappers were given work permits in 2009. It is the first time that I have heard that hunting and bird trapping qualifies as a job. I cannot understand this, but it is true. Nor can I understand how the pro- and anti-hunting lobbyists have so far said nothing about these two new ‘jobs’.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is the need for more transparency, and by transparency I mean that if we are giving work permits to foreign cleaners to work in Malta, the public must be informed that cleaners can get a work permit in Malta. If my memory does not deceive me, the rule was that a work permit may be given when the employer proves to ETC that, notwithstanding adverts in the newspapers, he found nobody local for the job.

Now, if the employer and the ETC did not find locals to take up all the jobs it gave work permits for, then there is a problem with both ETC for not providing the right training and for urging the government to invest in these job sectors and also for those on the dole who are managing to stay on the dole, despite the fact that most of them have a lifestyle that exceeds the social assistance that they get from the government.

Which reminds me: there are Maltese with dual residences who are getting social security benefits in Malta when, in the other country in which they are resident, they are millionaires. But the authorities, although the EU allows them to do so, are not seeking information about the applicants and rely blindly on what they put down in their application forms.
In Malta we have scrapped the definition of residence altogether, so that any one who is a Maltese citizen can get a Maltese identity card without proving that he lives in Malta more than six months in a year.

There is also no system of checks and follow-ups to ensure that the persons who are given the work permit actually do the job they were given the work permit for or that they are still working with the person who applied for their work permit. Nor do I understand how Filipinos have become synonymous with nannies and care workers in Malta, when there are Maltese who can do these jobs.

We must not forget that this is also leaving its mark on our healthcare system: suffice it to say that in 2008, 4,187 EU and 3,000 non-EU foreigners made use of St Luke’s/Mater Dei hospital, 1,889 of Boffa Hospital, 191 of Mount Carmel, 20 of Zammit Clapp Hospital and 2,076 of our health centres.

If the government really wants to curb unemployment, it must analyse how these jobs are being taken by foreigners, when traditionally they were always done by the Maltese and revise the work permits policy.

It is obscene to continue to give work permits to gardeners, delivery persons, care workers, kitchen hands, cleaners, tile layers, swimming pool attendants, nannies, waiters, welders, pipe fitters, plumbers, labourers, nail technicians, machine operators, hairdressers, hunters and trappers, drivers, clerks, fishmongers, butchers, pharmacists and money-lenders!



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A waste of taxpayer’s time and money

Anna Mallia
No policy on work permits

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