MEUSAC Core Group discusses proposed directive on work-life balance for parents and carers

26 October 2017


MEUSAC Core Group discusses proposed directive on work-life balance for parents and carers

The MEUSAC Core Group, chaired by Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds and Social
Dialogue Aaron Farrugia, met to discuss the proposal for an EU directive on work-life balance for
parents and carers. The proposal aims to reduce the gender gap in employment in member states –
including Malta, – aims to increase female participation and to give workers more opportunities to
balance their professional and care responsibilities, addresses shortcomings in care services facilities,
and eliminate economic disincentives to work for second earners among other issues.

Minister for European Affairs and Equality Helena Dalli opened the discussion by referring to the
European perspective and how it is tackled by European institutions. She referred to ‘work-life
balance’ as crucial, and although the investment in education and the training of the labour force is
bountiful, if one is not aware of the family’s needs and responsibilities, this investment might be in
vain when employees do not find a balance. Therefore, each member state must ensure that it has
structures which sustain families with dependent members, elderly or people with disabilities.

During the discussion, several issues were raised by members, including the need for country impact
assessments – as opposed to a one-size-fits-all system, – the importance that the EU remains
competitive in the global market, the principle of subsidiarity and how important it is for specific
circumstances of different member states to be given due consideration, and the shortage of workers
in the local economy, the pledge by the government on public holidays falling on the weekend, free
childcare which led to an increase in the female participation rate in the labour market, especially
young women, which is now higher than the EU average as well as the fact that in Malta, most SMEs
are, in fact, microenterprises.

Director, Strategy and Implementation Division in the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality
Claude Sammut warned that unless significant action is taken, the gender gap in Malta is estimated
to still amount to 9% in 2055.

Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia held that the Government has already implemented several
measures proposed by the directive, such as the introduction of free childcare centres, paternal leave,
and the reintroduction of leave for feasts falling on weekends, adding that one must act cautiously so
that employers do not find it harder to recruit employees and keep their competitiveness.

The Core Group was provided with information on the establishment of a Brexit unit within the EU
Secretariat of the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality. Minister Helena Dalli explained that this structure forms part of her secretariat. The head of this unit, Glenn Micallef, updated the Core
Group about the latest negotiations between the EU and the UK.

MEUSAC Head Vanni Xuereb said that, following the Prime Minister’s pledge to keep social partners
regularly updated on the Brexit negotiations through MEUSAC, they will be receiving updates at
each meeting.

Parliamentary Secretary Farrugia referred to the recently established Brexit taskforce and to a recent
survey showing that 3% of the industry in Malta will be impacted directly because of Brexit. He
insisted that it is important for the Government to address such concerns.

At the start of the meeting the Parliamentary Secretary spoke of the murder of journalist Daphne
Caruana Galizia and described this as an attack not only on a person, but on Malta, and the values we
cherish as a country. He said that the Government was working to see that justice is served and that
it is important that we all work together and not let Malta’s reputation be tarnished on an international

A one-minute silence was also observed in memory of Daphne Caruana Galizia.