About the unemployment report by HRCM

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives has published an interesting report on the situation of unemployment in the country and here below are few points in the report with our thinking on the same issues.

The participation of women and young people in the labor market in the Maldives is very low compared to other South Asian nations …

That there is a difference between other Asian nations and Maldives in this matter has a very good reason. In Maldives there are basically very few options for people to choose form as work. Tourism, and fisheries are the main two industries and besides which civil service is the biggest employer which is also spread out in all our islands. First the fact that our tourism industry is mainly based in isolated islands is one good reason why many women would opt out of tourism jobs. This is more so considering the fact that the country is predominantly Muslim and culturally protective of the fairer ones.

that most school leavers do not join the work force and relative affluence has led to youth opting to stay unemployed.

Which says nothing about the relative poverty in the atolls and islands where young people are faced with stark choices after the schooling is finished say at grade 7 or 8 or after the O Levels. Obviously the report was talking about Male and not about Raajethere.

low wages and working conditions do not attract Maldivians to many job and they do not have the skills for higher paid jobs.

The report truthfully says low wages and existing work conditions does not attract locals to many job categories which is true and true of locals as well as expatriates. Nobody would like to do a low paid job but sometimes we are all faced with stark choices which we make with a heavy heart. As for the report asserting that locals do not have skills for higher paid jobs, this could be a generalization with some traces of truth. However it has to be immediately pointed out that skill are also relative a term and many a times unskilled people are imported just because they claimed to have the required skill just out of desperation for work. This rarely is an option for the locals as there are ways and means to find out if the case is a locals. This is a very common situation in resorts where there is virtually no validation of skills or paperwork submitted by staff and everybody just “grows in to” the job in the probation period.

Many Maldivians prefer white collar jobs and any other type of employment is considered undesirable, the report continues, especially by those who have completed their O-levels.

This is absolutely true and could be forgiven if we just try to understand that to Maldives O- Levels and A- levels are what is BA’s MA’s and Phd’s to other countries. O- Levels and A-Levels are still a novelty to Maldives which is nothing to other countries even Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

the desirability for white collar jobs was passed down from parents to children in culture.

This is understandable and quite true. A good example of this is the number of PhD holders we have in Maldives who has become experts in all sorts of fields of study which rarely would have any scope of application in the country. For example what is the big use of a PhD in copyright laws in Maldives where not much is there to be copy righted? Surely we could do with more engineers and doctors and educators here in Maldives.

employers revealed the reluctance of youth and inability of females to enter into the job market were reasons for the high number of migrant workers .

What the employers has not revealed is the fact that profiting from imported labor is common practice and bribes and commissions were quite prevalent in the industry especially in tourism and construction. Although this might not be official policy of employers, it was and still is quite common.

the country is faced with an unmanageable population of migrant workers, threatening the very economy that they were brought in to sustain, ”

This is a positive development that at least some acknowledgement of the issue is taking place.

Among reasons cited by employers for hiring migrant workers was the lack of interest of urban Maldivians to work in tourist resorts and most workers were from the atolls.

Tourism is not for everyone. Nor is fishing or teaching. Tourism the way its done in Maldives is a long story of personal sacrifices,incredible camaraderie, hard work and lots of smiles. Smiling even if one wants to cry badly. (Which is bad for health, health professionals say…) So its quite understandable that urban Maldivians could not be found to fill the vacancies. Another point is what is that differentiates between an urban Maldivians or somebody from outer atolls for an employer? Surely employers pay the same for urban Maldivians and Maldivians from the outer atolls. Citing lack of urban Maldivians as a cause for hiring migrant workers therefore seems inconsistent.

Employers said locals: quit at any time; not return after annual leave or other leave; quit the job after learning skills from training at their company’s expense.

This is not very accurate it seems. Although most resorts are populated with a mix of nationalities in its workforce, there are some resorts almost exclusively run by locals including the very top jobs requiring advanced skills and expertise and yet the staff turn over is low. These employers are known to be staff friendly and there are many examples even out of resorts. So basically its a function of identifying staff as an asset which keeps staff loyal to the employer. However the majority of the employers do not fit in this category.

Drug addiction among young people was a factor which discouraged employers from hiring Maldivians..

This is a most unfair generalization which boarders on discrimination on hiring workers based on nationality. Although Maldives has a drug problem with the young generation (which most countries do by the way), few if any drug addicts or drug users would admit or portray them as such in job interviews etc. Hence for an employer to generalize that Maldivians have a drug addiction problem and favor others in their place clearly shows bias against locals (Which sadly is also common).

obstacles faced by Maldivians when looking for work include low wages, high living costs; preference of employers to hire foreign workers for low wages; lack of training and professional guidance; poor working conditions; employers’ refusal to implement the Employment Act; and lack of a pension scheme.

True. Quite true indeed.

Hassan Latheef, minister of human resources, youth and sports, said young people were not encouraged to work and were financially supported by their families. “They should be made aware that they should be contributing to the economy,” he said.

This is rhetoric. The fact of the matter is there is very few opportunities in the existing job market and most locals appear simply to have given up hope on getting a job. Its not a situation like in the oil rich gulf states where locals has no genuine need of work other than to fill up the hours of their life. Though there are some affluent youngsters who will be looked after by the affluent families, this is more of the domain of the few and well to do. Most locals do not fit in this category.

The government’s pledge to establish vocational training for young people is one of the measures adopted to tackle growing unemployment.

Already established vocational training centers has been training youngsters for some time and it appears that the existing model to do this should be revised. Under the current arrangements, students in these programs are to waste a precious few years 2 or 3 of their age learning slowly and having to be a burden on their families for the duration for the course, during which a paltry sum of pocket money is received. An improved model of vocational study could be introduced which would address these issues the students would face allowing them some inducement to pursue the studies before emerging to the job market.

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