Malta has made modest progress in relative poverty and material deprivation over the past decade, but the country’s record on consumption and urban development offers a less encouraging picture, a report concluded.
The report by the National Statistics Office, released last week, confirms the worrying occupation of agricultural land and the growing traffic problem.
Malta’s progress in achieving the goals set in the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development was measured in a 431-page report.
Covering data collected from 2010 to 2019, it provides an overview of the environmental and Maltese society trends associated with the strongest economic and demographic growth of the post-independence era.
The 2030 Agenda, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, is built around 17 goals covering a range of interconnected policy areas and is intended to be a “common plan for peace and prosperity for people and planet, now and in the future ”.
Of the nine poverty reduction targets assessed by the ONS study, Malta has improved in four.
Fewer people are “severely materially deprived”
The most significant change was in the percentage of the population defined as severely materially deprived, from 6.5% in 2010 to 3.6% in 2019, a trend reflected in each age category.
This puts Malta below the EU-27 average of 5.6% and at a similar level to Poland and Estonia.
However, the percentage of the population defined as “at risk of poverty” increased slightly from 15.5% to 17.1%.
The at-risk-of-poverty threshold is set at 60% of the equivalent national income, calculated at € 9,212 in 2019.
A higher percentage of women than men were systematically at risk of poverty and the age cohort most at risk of poverty in 2016-2019 was 65 years or over, of which 27.7% were considered to be at risk of poverty. risk in 2019.
In the previous six years covered by the study, the risk of child poverty was higher.
The share of the 20-year-old population who were employed in 2019 was 76.8%, up 16.7 percentage points from the employment rate in 2010.
In addition, the percentages of employed men and women have increased. In 2019, the unemployment rate (people aged 15 to 74) was 3.6%, compared to 6.9% in 2010.
Participation of women in the labor market
Avoidable death rates have fallen while life expectancy at birth in 2019 was almost 83 years, 1.5 years more than in 2010 and one of the highest in the EU.
The Maltese population appears to be more qualified and digitally literate than in 2010.
The employment rate of young graduates in 2019 increased slightly compared to 2010, reaching a peak of 96.2% in 2016.
Malta has made progress on eight of the 12 measures for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
The most substantial progress has been made in the participation of women in the labor market, with the figure of 102,484 in 2019 representing an increase of almost 84% compared to 2010.
The employment gap between men and women in 2019 was 20.7%, a decrease of almost 16%.
The gender pay gap has also narrowed over this period, with the average female salaried worker in Malta in 2019 receiving 11.6% less than men in terms of hourly wages.
Malta hurts sustainable urban environments
Malta scored particularly low on targets related to the development of sustainable urban environments, making progress in only three of the 15 measures.
In particular, ridership of public transport increased by 83.6%.
However, this is being countered by an upward trend in new registered car licenses and an increase in the number of road fatalities.
Malta was the only country in the European Union to record an increase in the number of road fatalities between 2010 and 2017.
The scale of development of the country over the past 20 years is captured by the increase in the percentage of the total land area that is developed, from just under a quarter (24.7%) to just over a third (33.6%) less than 20 years later.
The share of the population considering that their home does not have enough natural light also rose to 10% of households, an increase of 2.6% compared to 2010.
Speaking to The Times of Malta last year, Chamber of Architects vice-president Andre Pizzuto linked this to inadequate housing standards, with the construction boom of recent decades also playing a role.
From material and household consumption to per capita ecological footprint and waste production, the report offers readings that are probably unsurprising but still worrying.
The pace of urbanization and the growth in disposable income accompanying demographic and economic growth during the 2010s have contributed to an increase in the ecological footprint of the average Maltese resident well beyond the carrying capacity of the land.
When it comes to nature conservation goals, Malta has been more successful in protecting marine environments than on land.
Marine protected areas have expanded and the water quality of coastal bathing sites has also improved. The study records a positive trend in the scale of government-led afforestation programs.
Between 2010 and 2019, a total of 68,508 new trees were planted in these projects, including 29,268 in 2019 alone.
However, the percentage of land included in the Natura 2000 network, the EU’s flagship program for protected areas, has remained stable since 2011.
The report confirms that soil erosion, a major factor contributing to environmental degradation, is a significant problem.
Here again, the scale of construction and urban development has undermined progress on more discreet environmental protection measures.
The percentage of soil lost due to water erosion decreased, but the percentage of surface soil covered with man-made materials, such as concrete or asphalt, had increased to about 17.1% of the total land area. countries in 2018.
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