Social Policies in Malta

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The country case studies and thematic papers in this series examine social policy issues facing small states and the implications for economic development. They show how, despite their inherent vulnerability, some small states have been successful in improving their social indicators because of the complementary social and economic policies they have implemented.


Malta is a highincome developed small state, with an impressive level of economic growth and a multitude of social services, which have helped to provide free health and education to all its citizens and benefits to lowincome earners. However, various national and global factors are now threatening the sustainability of this extensive social security model. This paper examines the economic, political and social development of the island, particularly since independence, highlighting the successes and failures of the social development strategies adopted and suggesting how these lessons can inform future policy decisions.




Malta as a small island state is described as a success story, not only in terms of the development and economic growth it has witnessed, especially since independence, but also in the social realm, where everyone appears to enjoy a good standard of living. This growth not only mirrored that of its neighbours, but the island even surpassed its European counterparts. In fact, between 1960 and 1990, with an average annual 5.4 per cent growth rate, Malta ‘had the highest growth rate in Europe’ (Alesina, 2002: 308). Coupled with this, over the years an ever-increasing web of social services has provided free health and education to all the population (irrespective of income) and social assistance and benefits, including housing, to earners on low incomes. However, abuse of the social security system, an inadequate tax collection structure and fiercer competition following the opening up of the economy have led to increased pressure on social benefits and led to questions about the sustainability of this enveloping social security system.


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