Fabian Demicoli

Employment Aid Programme must be reinstated with immediate effect

Indifferent to the continuous
pressure by the GRTU since the announcement that the Employment Aid Programme
(EAP) scheme was going to be halted, the EAP scheme is till today still closed.
The authorities` justification of halting the scheme was that it had been
over-subscribed, pure mismanagement, and that employers seemed disinterested to
getting their refunds back, which we find very hard to believe. The
announcement came in May and till today the scheme is still closed.

The scheme was very beneficial for
SMEs to employ. It was a scheme that bridged the gap between education and
unemployment and the world of work. 7 groups identified as disadvantaged groups
were the target: youths under 25 and within 2 years of completing full-time
education and have not yet obtained a first regular paid employment, any
persons that have been absent from work and education for more than 2 years, a
single adult looking after dependents, any person who has not attained upper
secondary level qualifications and made redundant during the last 6 months,
person older than 50 who does not have a job, long term registered unemployed,
any person having a registered disability.

Thanks to the EAP these 7 groups
found their way into the world of work and the figures were very satisfying. At
a time when Europe is in wide alarm on unemployment levels, especially youth
unemployment, the Maltese Authorities felt comfortable closing this scheme.
What was the result? Unemployment figures started going up.

Statistics issued by NSO on 3rd
October 2012 state "that in August, the number of persons registering as
unemployed in Malta and Gozo stood at 6,139 and 682 respectively. Accordingly,
during the twelve-month period to August, the number of registered unemployed
went up by 352 on the mainland and by 4 in Gozo". When analyzing statistics
into more detail one would realise that persons registering for employment
during July 2012 stood at 6,664 and during August 2012 it stood at 6,821. An
increase of 157 in one month.

GRTU had strongly opposed closing the
scheme from the very beginning. If mistakes were made they had to be corrected
and therefore we agreed that a stock take needed to be taken but this was made
at the expense of job seekers and employers. GRTU argued that an immediate
solution had to be found and whatever the reason it had to be put aside and
solved but the scheme had to be kept open even if it meant putting in
Government funds.

We are reaching stagnation. The
extremely efficient schemes operated by Malta Enterprise help enterprises
create projects and invest in their business but employers are feeling the lack
of an appropriate employment incentive which is halting progress, expansion and
employment.

GRTU calls on Minister Cristina to
take the issue under hand and see to what needs to be done to what needs to be
done to reinstate the scheme with immediate effect.

GRTU has also included the permanent
reinstatement of the EAP together with other measures in our budget proposals.
The Ministry for Finance, the Ministry for SMEs and the Ministry for Employment
need to come together to make this work. Those that hold power are responsible
to ensure Malta does not fall into the unemployment trends like so many other
EU countries.

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