Malta’s budget season is set against a backdrop of multiple crises around the world. The impacts and repercussions of Covid-19, the Russian-Ukrainian war and the climate emergency, among others, are there for us, for example in terms of inflation and energy supply, with further ramifications to come.

As a small island EU member state in the Mediterranean, Malta shares various challenges encountered elsewhere. Yet we also have our own particularities, some resulting from external factors and some resulting from internal factors, including policy making.

For example, the absorption of the shock of energy inflation has allowed the Maltese economy to perform relatively well compared to what is observed in various countries. At the same time, the sustainability of measures such as fossil fuel subsidies is questionable.

Malta’s social policy system also has its challenges. On the one hand, the country offers generous programs such as free childcare for children whose parents are in formal employment (which, however, excludes other children from the free service). On the other hand, sectors like housing are very much dominated by a neoliberal model and increasingly unaffordable prices. A paradox in the housing sector is that while many cannot afford the current prices of properties for sale or rent, other people from different socio-economic backgrounds are investing in this sector, which, in turn, is highly dependent of the influx of foreign workers in what looks like an unsustainable treadmill of economic dependency.

In the budgetary context, various proposals are emerging from the public sphere. For example, yesterday’s Malta Independent editorial and an interview with David Spiteri Gingell last Sunday gave food for thought on pension reform – an area which I believe requires cross-party and cross-sector consensus given the its generational ramifications.

Other voices, such as trade unions and left-wing NGOs, emphasize the needs of people living in poverty or at risk of falling behind due to rising costs. At the same time, Malta’s economic competitiveness within a global economy has its own challenges.

The green economy, which I discussed in my article in The Malta Independent on 25e August (“A climate pact for Malta”). This sector relates to different aspects of Malta’s society and environment, as well as our obligations, risks and opportunities as a small island in a global economy.

Incidentally, in the coming days, a sociological book that I co-edited with Maria Brown will be launched at an online public event organized by ta Malta Sociological Association, in collaboration with the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and the Department of Arts, Open Communities and Adult Education, Faculty of Education, University of Malta.

This volume is the first of its kind to discuss social welfare issues using case studies from a wide range of Southern European countries, large and small, a decade after the financial crisis. It identifies similarities and differences in how Southern European countries address specific wellbeing issues and examines whether Southern European wellbeing is distinct from that of the rest of the continent.

The book also discusses the impact of Covid-19 on the social protection issues under investigation. The volume is divided into four sections, each examining in detail issues such as employment, education, health, sexuality, globalization, social movements and migration. With its contributions from experts in the field, the volume is recommended for scholars, researchers, and students of sociology, social policy, economics, education, politics, and social movements.

“Social Welfare Issues in Southern Europe” will launch on Thursday, October 26 between 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. CET, and authors from different chapters and different countries in Southern Europe will discuss various aspects of their respective research.

Further details, including registration, are available at maltasociologicalassociation.com

Dr Michael Briguglio is a sociologist and senior lecturer at the University of Malta

www.michaelbriguglio.com

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