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Chamber proposes cap on number of non-EU workers businesses can employ

The Malta Chamber of Commerce has proposed introducing a cap on the percentage of non-EU nationals that a business can employ, in a series of measures presented on Tuesday in its pre-budget document.

The proposals are aimed at moving the country’s economic model away from one based on population growth.

While condemning the exploitation of third-country nationals, particularly through practices akin to “modern-day slavery”, the Chamber said that Malta cannot continue to rely on TCNs to supplement gaps in the workforce. 

“Our country needs to overhaul our education system and implement automation strategies to complement our workforce,” they said.

“At the same time, a more strategic offering for highly skilled non-EU citizens who want to live and work in the country to fill pressing qualitative skill gaps in the labour market is required, with clearly defined eligibility criteria including high salary thresholds.”

Barring the operation of essential services such as healthcare, public transport and waste management, a strict cap on the number of non-EU nationals that a company can employ should be introduced, with temping agencies tightly regulated and transformed in a way that they can provide for seasonal staff requirements, rather than having permanent positions filled by workers provided through agencies. 

In tandem, companies should also have a monthly quota of how many TCN applications they can file with Jobsplus, the Chamber added. It said that exemptions, such as to allow for large-scale expansion, should only be granted on a case-by-case basis. 

To discourage people from filing duplicate and superfluous applications which clog up the system, Identity Malta should also eliminate the possibility for one person to submit multiple applications, they said. 

Blue card system proposed

They proposed that ID Malta’s key employee initiative should be transformed into a Blue Card for skilled professionals, with a minimum salary requirement of €40,000.

An exception, they added, could be made for specific STEM professionals who make a minimum of €35,000 and only in fields where there is a proven shortage and with a specified maximum duration of residency. 

A skills forecasting policy, they said, should also be adopted by the agency to prioritise particular specialised skills when it comes to processing TCN applications. 

The Chamber proposed reforming rules that require employers to submit a rental agreement in the early stages of the application process.

TCNs, it said, should be granted a three-month temporary work permit together with Identity Malta’s approval, in principle allowing them to work during the first three months upon their arrival in Malta while the rest of the licensing process is completed. 

TCNs, they added should be allowed to change their employer freely once they obtained permission to work in Malta, while employers who abuse their employees should be barred from receiving any financial aid or competing for public tenders. 

In the interest of strengthening worker’s rights, the Chamber said that when a TCN has been employed with the same company for more than a year, employment should shift to the company providing the job, while employment licenses should be extended for an additional three years after the first successful year of employment with the same employer.