Maltese - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Malta is an industrialized society. In 1987 less than 2.5 percent of the 122,000 gainfully occupied population was employed fulltime in agriculture. Five times that amount worked as parttime farmers, reflecting the islands' recent agrarian past. Roughly 33 percent of the working population is employed by the government. The (ex-British naval) dockyard is the largest employer, but there are a growing number of smaller export-oriented manufacturing industries located in small industrial estates throughout the conurbation. Thus, though most people are employed outside the communities in which they live, no one has to travel very far. Tourism has become a major element in the Maltese economy. Between the mid-1960s and 1989, annual tourist arrivals increased from 20,000 to over 800,000. Employment in this sector has increased apace.

Traditionally, the Maltese rural and urban working class diet consisted mainly of bread and vegetable stew ( minestra), fresh fruit in season, and occasionally meat, often rabbit. With the growth of prosperity since independence, the diet has become more varied and much richer.

Industrial Arts. Except for blacksmiths, cabinetmakers, and carpenters, for whose work the demand is declining rapidly, there are few artisans in Malta. In Gozo, however, there is still a lively tradition of female handicraft: weaving, lace making, and, stimulated by tourism, knitting pullovers.

Trade. Throughout Gozo and especially Malta there are modern stores, (weekly) open-air markets, and a stream of hawkers who sell local and imported household goods, tools, furnishings, and fresh meat, fish, and produce.

Division of Labor. Until the mid-1960s there was a pronounced gender-based division of labor. Women worked at home and helped in farming, while men worked outside the house. That arrangement has changed markedly. Today most unmarried women work outside the house for wages. Increasingly, women are continuing to work after marriage, and, if helpful relatives are nearby, even after their first children are born.

Land Tenure. Agricultural land is normally leased under emphyteutic contracts from government, church, or private landowners. Land rents generally were and still are modest, for they were tightly controlled by the British to avoid social exploitation and rural unrest.


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