Matthew Caruana, CEO of JA Malta, believes that Malta must look to technological advancement, automation, and the efficient management of resources if it is to break out of the cycle of dependence on population growth.
“Quality of life is more important than growth, and I cannot foresee any quality of life with 800,000 people living on this tiny, condensed island,” he says, referring to comments recently made by Finance and Employment Minister Clyde Caruana.
Minister Caruana argued that Malta’s population will need to rise to 800,000 by 2040 if it hopes to sustain its current growth rate, unless it undertakes a vital reform of its economy.
Writing on LinkedIn, Mr Caruana, who works with youths through his role as CEO of JA Malta, said he would like to “kick off conversations that focus more on the repercussions on our youth and on the way we can prepare them for work”.
In his reflections, he argues that while employment plays a significant role in an economy, it is not the only factor that drives growth.
One way to reduce Malta’s overreliance on population growth as a driver of economic growth, he says, is by focusing on technological advancements, investing in automation that allows companies to “generate and produce more without additional employment”.
“Moreover, we must increase the investment in infrastructure, equipment, and machinery to enhance productivity. Every job can be done better and faster with state-of-the-art tools, producing a better result with less employment, or at least without increasing the head count.”
Paired with this, he continues, must be specialisation on the national and corporate level. He points to Malta’s successful transition to a knowledge-based economy where industries rely on intellectual capital, and says that this “needs to continue and be further accelerated as these industries can spur growth and revenue without a substantial rise in employment”.
Companies should also be “creative and entrepreneurial to “redesign tasks and optimise processes”, he says, as this could “eliminate redundancies, streamline processes, and improve efficiency”.
“The infrastructure, the building stock and roads cannot keep up with the growth in population in such a small space,” says Mr Caruana, inviting readers to continue the conversation while acknowledging a crucial tenet of any future strategy: “We must invest in our workforce and our youth from an early age to ensure they succeed in this global economy, by giving them the opportunities to explore what they want to do and what they are good at.
“They need to be given time and space to be creative and critical.”
For the JA Malta CEO, what Malta needs is not necessarily more people, but more people “to be constantly looking out for solutions, innovations, and improvements”.
“We cannot keep doing what we have been doing, as the world requires a new mindset. One which is more inclusive and more sustainable, as growth, on its own, is not the be-all and end-all.”
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