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Clerks, waiters, shop assistants… Where are foreign workers employed?

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A relative majority of foreign workers are employed in administrative and support service  

activities that include security, cleaning and clerical services, figures out recently show. 

According to information tabled in parliament by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, 15.6% of foreign workers as of August last year were employed in administrative and support services. He was replying to a parliamentary question by Nationalist MP Bernice Bonello. 

There were 107,406 foreigners working in Malta with 16,792 employed in administrative services. The second largest cohort numbering 15,200, or 14.2% of all foreign workers, was employed in accommodation and food service activities that include hotels and restaurants. 

The figures show that almost 60% of foreign workers had jobs in just five employment categories last August. Each of these five categories have remained largely unchanged as the top five job sectors that employed foreigners since 2011. What has changed is the ranking of each of these five categories over the years. 

Whereas 12 years ago, the largest cohort of foreign workers (2,148) were employed in hotels and restaurants, followed by the arts, entertainment and recreation sector (1,667) and administrative and support services (1,478); in 2023, the largest cohort was in administration services (16,792) followed by hotels and restaurants (15,200) and construction (10,581). 

Of significance is that the construction sector was part of the top five job categories until 2013 and then dropped out as other sectors started attracting more foreigners. However, by 2019, construction reappeared among the top five sectors as the sector boomed. 

Retail entered the top five slots in 2012 and kept growing ever since, while the manufacturing sector slipped out of the top five in 2013. 

The overall picture shows that in 2011 there were 12,338 foreigners working in Malta, a figure that shot up to more than 100,000 within a 12-year span. The number of foreign workers has increased on a yearly basis since 2011 but accelerated at a higher speed after 2016, with a slowdown during the pandemic. 

In 2022, numbers were again on a steep incline with foreign workers increasing by more than 20,000 in just one year. Between August 2023 and the end of 2022, an eight-month interlude, statistics show that 10,436 more foreign workers were employed in Malta. 

Top five employment sectors for foreigners 

2011 

1. Accommodation and food services activities (2,148) 

2. Arts, entertainment and recreation (1,667) 

3. Administrative and support service activities (1,478) 

4. Construction (1,047) 

5. Manufacturing (1,015) 

2016 

1. Accommodation and food services activities (5,566) 

2. Administrative and support service activities (5,189) 

3. Arts, entertainment and recreation (4,967) 

4. Professional, scientific and technical activties (3,526) 

5. Wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles (2,868)   

2023 (up to August) 

1. Accommodation and food services activities (15,200) 

2. Administrative and support service activities (16,792) 

3. Construction (10,581) 

4. Wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles (10,366) 

5. Arts, entertainment and recreation (8,885) 

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