JobsPlus statistics suggest a clear trend when it comes to unscrupulous employers exploiting undocumented workers: a shift from the illegal employment of Maltese workers to that of foreign nationals.
Employment Minister Owen Bonnici published statistics dating back to 2013 in response to a parliamentary question by opposition MP Ivan Bartolo.
The number of workers caught working illegally has fluctuated over the years, ranging from some 2,400 to over 3,500 during the past seven years. 2,477 people were caught working illegally last year.
But the number of Maltese workers caught working illegally is on a clear downward trend – from a peak of 1,811 in 2013 to 746 last year. In contrast, the number of illegally employed foreign workers increased from 611 in 2013 to a peak of 2,292 in 2018, before decreasing to 1,731 a year later. Figures to date suggest that the number may be even higher in 2020: 1,609 foreign workers were caught working illegally in May.
In general, the authorities seek action against employers, and not employees, when it comes to unlicensed workers, who are often exploited under poor working conditions. There is, however, one exception to the rule: those who work illegally whilst they remain on the unemployment register.
The number of Court cases instituted by JobsPlus over illegal employment has also fluctuated over the years, peaking at 605 cases in 2016 before decreasing to 389 last year.
JobsPlus is also empowered to resolve some cases through the issuing of administrative fines. Curiously, the number of fines issued in the first five months of this year – 641 – is higher than that recorded in any of the seven previous years.