Housing, migration intentions and expected length of stay of migrant workers in Malta

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Migration and housing are closely linked. When migrants choose a new location, they also choose a new property to reside in. Despite being so central to one’s well-being and standard of living, the influence of the housing market on migrants’ intentions to stay in the destination country has received relatively less research attention. This dissertation seeks to address this gap by exploring the extent to which satisfaction with housing can influence the length of intended stay by migrant workers in the destination country.

This dissertation focuses on Malta, which is a small open economy and a member of the European Union. Malta offers an interesting case study, because in the decade prior to 2021, its population increased by 25%, mostly due to a strong influx of migrant workers. Its private rental market was ill-prepared to deal with this demand, given the absence of regulation, resulting in abuses and affordability concerns.

Data collection for the dissertation research relies on primary sources obtained from two surveys. The first one consisted of an online survey conducted in 2019 based on a non-probability sample targeting migrant workers that used to work in Malta but had since left the country (N=242). The second survey was conducted in 2021 with migrant workers in Malta who reside in private rental accommodation (N=495). The second survey was based on a probability sample that used the rent register of the Housing Authority – established as part of a holistic rent reform introduced in 2020 – as the sampling frame. Both surveys provided valuable additions to the knowledge about the population of migrant workers in Malta and were instrumental in overcoming official data limitations. Eight research hypotheses are proposed and tested in two empirical chapters using multinomial and ordered logit models.
Among the key findings, respondents who were dissatisfied with their housing were more likely to switch towards a shorter stay than initially planned. They were also less likely to have permanent settlement intentions. The analysis of the determinants of housing satisfaction combined quantitative and qualitative approaches. Key factors that emerge include the disconnection between rents and housing quality, difficulties in the tenant-landlord relationship, and problems with the surrounding neighbourhood.

This dissertation contributes to the literature on migration intentions and to the literature on housing and residential satisfaction. Beyond the confined shores of Malta, this study is highly significant for countries with an ageing population and a rising dependence on migrant workers. It is especially relevant for understanding migration behaviour in the context of local labour markets in small economies, especially those without a mature private rental market.
Date of Award18 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorSebnem Eroglu-Hawksworth (Supervisor) & Yiming Wang (Supervisor)


  • Housing
  • migration intentions
  • residential satisfaction
  • migration duration
  • Survey
  • Malta

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