Why this story matters:
The fact that Maltese teenagers are among the lowest educated and the fact that the staunchly Catholic country has a high teenage pregnancy rate are rarely analyzed together. Yet, as various studies show, performance in education is closely tied to gender roles.
The need to earn money often leads to high dropout rates for boys, who have an easier time finding low-skilled but highly paid jobs in construction and similar industries.
Meanwhile, the reports reveal that girls tend to drop out of school when their families see little value in education, or when they become pregnant.
A recent proposal to liberalize abortion was condemned by all political parties, but some progress in sexual education could be on the horizon. In the light of the reports' revelation, the government now seems more open to the argument that better awareness and easier access to contraception is the ultimate anti-abortion policy.
Details from the story:
- Malta’s teenage pregnancy rate, when compared to the total number of births, is the ninth highest in Europe
- There were 149 births to teen mothers in 2016, the most recent year reported, and 16 young women delivered their second baby before turning 20.
- Health Minister Chris Fearne recently promised a revamped national sexual health policy will include access to contraceptives through the National Health Service (NHS).
- A third of Malta's 15-year-olds do not reach the basic levels in reading and maths, placing Malta in third worst ranking behind Romania and Bulgaria.