Fact-check: Is Malta’s population now at 717,000 people? - Featured image

Fact-check: Is Malta’s population now at 717,000 people?

A Facebook post shared on 15 June claiming that Malta’s population is now 717,000 was widely parroted across social media in recent days.

The post, published in a popular Facebook group, claimed that there are now 550,000 Maltese citizens in the country, with a further 87,000 EU nationals and 80,000 third-country nationals, for a total of 717,000 people living in Malta legally.

This number does not include tourists, who typically do not count towards population counts, and people who may be living in Malta undetected.

The post does not immediately make clear where these figures are coming from but, when asked for a source, the author of the post replied that the figures are from Malta’s National Statistics Office (NSO).

A screenshot of the popular Facebook post.

But NSO has not published any population figures approaching the ones mentioned in the post, and the numbers cited in the post are far off from NSO’s most recent population estimates.

What does NSO say?

NSO’s most recent population figures were published just under a year ago in July 2023, to mark World Population Day.

These figures calculated that Malta’s population at the end of 2022 was 542,051 people, including all Maltese, EU and non-EU citizens, nowhere near the 717,000 mentioned in the Facebook post.

This means that Malta’s population grew by some 22,000 people throughout the year – rising from 520,174 at the end of 2021 to just over 542,000 a year later.

While NSO’s 2021 census gives a detailed breakdown of the nationality of all foreign nationals living in Malta, its 2022 figures do not specifically list how many of them are EU citizens and how many come from outside the EU.

But the 2022 data provides a breakdown of how many EU nationals came to Malta and how many left throughout the year, also giving similar information for third-country nationals and Maltese citizens. So, in reality, it is rather simple to use these figures to calculate how Malta’s EU and non-EU population has changed.

Throughout 2022, the figures show, just over 7,000 EU citizens moved to Malta and 4,500 left, resulting in a net migration of 2,589 EU citizens.

The numbers for third-country nationals are significantly higher. Almost 26,000 arrived throughout the year with a little under 8,000 leaving the country, for a net increase of 18,123.

Meanwhile, 1,800 Maltese citizens returned to Malta and a little under 800 left the islands, for an increase of 1,039.

Taking other factors, such as the number of births, deaths and adoptions, into account, this means that there were roughly 406,000 Maltese citizens in Malta at the end of 2022, together with some 43,000 EU nationals and roughly 93,000 non-EU nationals.

This figure of 93,000 non-EU nationals does not just include people from outside Europe.

It factors in people from European countries outside the EU, of which there were roughly 25,000 in 2021 (including 10,600 British nationals and over 5,500 Serbs).

But these are 2022 figures, what about today?

More recent official figures are not yet available, although updated data about Malta’s population by the end of 2023 will likely soon be out if NSO keeps up its customary habit of publishing updated population figures on World Population Day in July.

But if Malta’s population throughout 2023 grew at a similar rate to what it did the previous year, then the population counts in the Facebook post would still be miles off, with Malta’s population growing to roughly 564,000 by the end of 2023.

Even if we are to believe that the population increased at double the rate throughout 2023 than it did in 2022, a rather improbable scenario, that would only bring Malta’s total population to some 585,000 people. Again, this is nowhere near the 717,000 figure.

NSO’s most comprehensive population count was carried out in 2021’s census, but these figures were later updated to cover until the end of 2022. File photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Misinformation about Malta’s population, particularly linked to the migrant community, is not new.

Last summer, a popular local Facebook page falsely claimed a newly-published study revealed that Maltese citizens were outnumbered by foreigners, estimating Malta’s total population to be some 821,000.

A few months later, opposition leader Bernard Grech waded into the discussion during a speech in parliament, falsely claiming that Malta’s population had “almost doubled” since 2013, when it stood at some 422,000.


NSO’s most recent data shows Malta’s population at the end of 2022. No other population estimates have been published since then.

At that point, there were a total of 542,051 people living in Malta, a good 175,000 fewer than the 717,000 mentioned in the Facebook post.

Of these 542,000 people, roughly 406,000 were Maltese citizens, 43,000 were EU nationals, and 93,000 were non-EU nationals (including people from European countries outside the EU, such as the UK and Serbia).

If Malta’s population grew at a similar rate in the period since these figures were published to what it did in recent years, Malta’s current population would hover around the 564,000 mark.

Even if Malta’s population grew at twice the rate during this same period, it would still not approach the 717,000 figure, settling at around 585,000.

More accurate population figures are likely to be published over the coming weeks.

This claim is therefore false, as the evidence clearly refutes the claim.

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Fact Check, Politics, Society

Author(s): Neville Borg

Originally published here.