Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you in Geneva today at the World of Work Summit.
I thank H.E. Gilbert Houngbo, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, for his relentless efforts in leading ILO and enhancing protection for workers worldwide. The past years have presented each and every one of us with major challenges, not least in the employment and labour sectors. The pandemic, economic uncertainty, roll-backs of social advancement and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine have all left indelible marks on our societies and peoples. These ongoing events have prompted calls to not only build-back but build-back better.
Recovering, Rebuilding and Revitalising are the three Rs that have become essential components of the global response towards devising such a strategy.
This challenging international climate does not seem to be ending in the immediate term. The Report by the ILO Director General, presented at the International Labour Conference, is indeed alarming.
A staggering 658 million people are living in enduring extreme poverty, the highest-ever recorded figure. The World Bank has observed an increase in the poverty index over the past three years. This means that achieving the goal of bringing the global absolute poverty rate to below 3 percent by 2030, appears out of reach unless we embark on swift, significant, and targeted policy measures. For this reason, our approach should be based on the principles of “leaving no one behind” and “building back better.”
Echoing the words of the United Nations Secretary-General, it is imperative that we exert a significant and concerted effort at the highest political level to regain momentum and effectively accomplish the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development within this critical Decade of Action and Delivery.
We believe that the 2030 Agenda, enjoying universal support, should be the primary road map for all states.
The ILO is a unique international organisation at which Governments, Employers and Employees, through their representatives, sit around the same table as equal partners. ILO has, therefore a unique contribution to make to the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
This Organisation’s founding Constitution recognised long ago that universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice, and thus that all human beings have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.
These principles have been reaffirmed numerous times, including in the 2019 Centennial Declaration.
To accomplish these noble aims, we must adopt a proactive rather than reactive approach, foster creativity; and adopt a holistic and forward-looking agenda that seeks to increase momentum to improve the lives of millions. We owe it to our people to embrace these transformations and face any challenges that come along the way.
The ILO’s core activities should serve as a guiding principle in our collective efforts to build a world where all individuals have access to fair opportunities, dignified work, and a life of dignity.
In today’s world, it is more crucial than ever to shoulder the responsibility of demonstrating the value of all individuals within our communities.
Regardless of age, race, creed, colour, language, nationality, disability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, diversity should be embraced and celebrated as a source of enrichment for society.
Only by acknowledging diversity can we actively take a stand towards acceptance, inclusion and empowerment of all segments of society.
This also means that we have to make every effort to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights to all, and to create the necessary conditions in our domestic environment, including legislative action, that allows everyone to fulfil their full potential.
We cannot truly appreciate the immense benefits a diverse society brings unless we recognize and acknowledge that it is precisely this diversity that our communities need to thrive and succeed.
In terms of social cohesion, Governments play a vital role by recognizing that it is crucial for continued economic growth and the betterment of their respective countries.
Each of the tripartite stakeholders have an essential role to play when it comes to social cohesion.
Governments have the responsibility to ensure that legislative and social protections are effective, operational and up to date.
Employers have the responsibility to ensure that they provide decent work and salaries.
Employees have the right to be assured that their rights are protected and respected.
‘Autonomy’ and ‘empowerment’ are values that Maltese legislation and practice seeks to incorporate into mainstream society while ensuring appropriate support to persons who may find themselves in more vulnerable situations.
Women continue to play a significant role in society, contributing to communities and increasingly participating in the workforce in recent decades. Yet their contribution has often been undervalued, underestimated, and, at times, completely unrecognized.
I firmly believe that the momentum gained to overcome the gender pay gap and to secure women’s rights should serve as a powerful inspiration for leaders to review the pace of progress and ensure that Governments make steadfast commitments to achieving gender equality within our lifetime.
On a national level, Malta has been actively promoting various initiatives which underscore our commitment to the promotion of equal opportunities for all, including gender equality.
These initiatives have led to a notable increase in women’ participation of in the labour market.
In Malta, the participation rate of women in the workforce has risen strongly since 2005, reaching 74.1% in 2022, and exceeding the euro area average of 64 percent.
The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to encourage women to either remain or return to the labour force.
These initiatives tackle two main aspects: those that directly enhance disposable income – such as the introduction of tax credits, a new parent tax band computation, in-work benefits and enhanced maternity benefits.
The second set of measures are those that impact disposable income indirectly – such as increasing maternity and paternity leave, the introduction of partial payment for parental leave, free child-care services, afternoon school programmes, and other schemes to facilitate the return of women to work.
Together, these initiatives aim to improve the financial circumstances of women and their families, promote gender equality in the labour market, and enable women to fully participate in the economy.
Around fifteen years ago, the ILO unanimously adopted the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation, a landmark Declaration which serves as a powerful reaffirmation of the values the organisation is committed to uphold.
It reflects the wide consensus on the need for a strong social dimension into globalisation to achieve improved and fair outcomes for all. Moreover, it acts as a guiding compass for promoting fair globalisation based on decent work, as well as a practical tool to accelerate progress in implementing the Decent Work Agenda at country level.
Malta’s long-standing commitment to advance dialogue within international fora towards accessible and high-quality education and employment opportunities for all reaffirms its stance to support the creation of policies for an actively engaged society that leaves nobody behind.
Indeed, Malta’s performance on decent work and economic growth (SDG 8) and on macroeconomic stability (SDG 16) have also been positively noted within international circles.
In this regard, fostering equitable and open-ended inclusive learning pathways, supporting lifelong learning for all and investing in human capital through the emergence of a skilled labour market are three important pillars to strengthen economic progress which takes into account our social wellbeing and equal rights for all.
Malta holds a strong track record in the field of employment.
The overall positive labour market outlook is a direct result of an integrated make-work-pay reform package aimed at investing in human capital through a number of targeted policies and measures to reach those groups identified at being most at risk of labour market alienation.
In the years prior to the pandemic, Malta’s economic performance was characterised by continued growth. The exponential economic growth which Malta experienced in the last few years was connected to sustained employment.
In view of the pandemic and the sudden economic turbulence brought upon the labour markets and economic systems, the Government of Malta launched a holistic strategy to address the impact of the pandemic with the objective of protecting jobs and mitigating unemployment.
This resulted in around 25,500 jobs out of a workforce of around 250,000 being saved while protecting many businesses from closing their doors.
This was all done through constant consultation between social partners, resulting in expedited action being taken on the ground, based on the situation as it evolved.
As we look ahead, Malta will continue to work on elements from the Centenary Declaration on the Future of Work, in particular by taking a human-centered approach to reforms related to the world of work.
The Government of Malta is also committed to continue to further strengthen the distributional policies enacted in recent years with the objective of strengthening social inclusion, promote social mobility and reduce poverty.
Our priority for the upcoming period is to continue building on what has been achieved so far by further enhancing labour market access for all groups through continued upskilling, labour market incentives and by facilitating the transitions towards labour market participation.
On an international level, we have come to the realise that due to our interconnectedness we are only as strong as our weakest link. Only by working together and in solidarity with each other can we successfully confront emerging challenges.
Only together can we build resilience against future pandemics and other globally disruptive events.
Multilateralism is not an option, but a necessity as we strive to build back better for a more equal, more resilient, and more sustainable world. Only through collective action we can truly recover together.
For this reason, the ILO’s mandate has become more relevant than ever before and the launch of the Global Coalition for Social Justice this year cannot be any more timely.
I firmly believe that this Coalition would be instrumental in addressing and preventing inequalities.
It will be vital in ensuring that social justice is prioritized in national and global policy making. Our commitment lies in striving to provide the best to our peoples, ensure a higher quality of life and a brighter future. Sustainable development is all about current and future generations and not solely limited to specific economic sectors or social strata.
A generation implies that we are all involved and hence we are all expected to contribute to define our own future and to leave a better world for generations to come.