Malta joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the Euro on 1 January 2008. Malta’s free market economy, which is the smallest economy in the eurozone, relies heavily on trade in both goods and services, principally with Europe, and on human resources. Malta produces less than a quarter of its food needs, has limited freshwater supplies and has few domestic energy sources. Malta’s economy is practically driven by financial services, tourism, real estate, Igaming and manufacturing, particularly of electronics. Other important activities are pharmaceuticals, information technology, and call centres. Human resources is a crucial natural resource for Malta, and thus education is imperative in shaping it in accordance with labour market needs.
Through the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024, the Malta strives to develop a society that is competent, resourceful, critically conscious and competitive in a global economy which is driven by information, knowledge. The Framework among others supports the modernisation process of vocational education and training, apprenticeship, traineeship, as well as work-based and work-placed learning initiatives. Indeed, vocational and professional education and training gained in importance in the educational system. For instance, this is reflected in both the infrastructural expansion and the increase in the number and variety of courses offered by the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) in recent years, in accordance with its strategic plan. Besides, further, and higher education full-time courses up to undergraduate degrees are offered free of charge at the University of Malta and MCAST, which underpins the importance that Malta gives to development of its human resources. The Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 and the National Employment Policy 2021-2030 also point towards such direction. The University of Malta’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025 among others strives to increase its capacity for collaborative activity with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), industry, and other social and economic stakeholders setting priorities concerning work-based learning, outreach and education programmes for life-long learning and economic development.
Malta’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth remains strong and is supported by a strong labour market. The government has implemented new programs, including free childcare, inter alia to encourage increased labour participation. Public expenditure on education (pre-primary to tertiary education) stood at 4.59% of GDP in 2019 (Eurostat (a)). As with the rest of Europe, the Maltese economy experienced a dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 situation, because of which, on advice of the Maltese health authorities, government issued restrictions on tourism, restaurants, hotels and personal care service outlets, among others. However, the economy is recovering. In 2021, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at market prices in 2021 amounted to €14,533.8 million, an 11.3% increase over 2020; while economic growth in terms of real GDP, increased by 9.4% over 2020, following an 8.3% decrease registered a year before due to the COVID-19 situation.
Malta managed to maintain a relatively low unemployment rate, even during COVID 19 crises. Indeed, in June 2022 the unemployment rate stood at 3.0%, which is mainly attributed to constant growth and policies encouraging continuous training for the labour force, tapering of social benefits and restricting unemployment benefits abuse.
The educational attainment of the population aged 15-64 years improved between 2005 and 2021: those attaining qualifications pegged at MQF3-4 increased by 76.8%, while those attaining qualifications at MQF5-8 increased by 184.5%.
Table 1: Educational attainment of the population from 15-64 years in Malta
Less than primary, primary and lower secondary education (levels 0-2)
Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (levels 3 and 4)
Tertiary education (levels 5-8)
b: break in time series d: definition differs
Source: Eurostat (b)
Eurostat (a) (2022). (Public expenditure on education by education level and programme orientation - as % of GDP). (Last accessed 11/10/2022)
Eurostat (b) (2022). (Population by educational attainment level, sex and age (%) - main indicators). (Last accessed 11/10/2022)