Excepting the very few exceptions, most of the resorts in Maldives have a mix of staff from various countries in an easily categorized fashion depending on the functions of the staff.
For example: Most of the Bangladeshis on the average resort would be found in the labour workforce whilst the Sri Lankans will be the majority of the accountants and the locals dominate in as Room Boys, Waiters, Receptionists and the Nepalis are dependable for security. These are general stereotypes and should match the status in most of the resorts. There is no issue in this mix of nationalities and is a blessing in many forms. Having a team of different backgrounds and nationalities bring lots of skills and everybody benefits from multiculturalism.
The flip-side of this situations is the many occasions where simple misunderstandings of language translates to anything from bickering to fights to full-scale warfare resort style. There has indeed been instances where riot police had been called to islands to quell such violence with serious injuries to staff.
On the other hand, those resorts which seems to favor a particular nationality of staff over others have an easier job of maintaining governance being dictatorial. Examples of such resorts are The Universal Group, Bandos, Vabbinfaru, Sonevafushi etc. However it has to be noted that there are indeed reasons for a resort to have an abundance of staff from a particular country or some islands in Maldives. For the Universal Group the biggest reason is their extensive business links in Sri Lanka and the history of the company rather than anything else. For Bandos the apparent favoritism of Addu staff could be attributed to Mr. Deen’s personal attachment to Addu which is quite well known. Past experience and a desire to achieve the prestigious tourism award of “green leaf” could be the reason why nature loving resorts like Vabbinfaru choose locals as their favorites. Of-course none of these claims to favoritism would be found in official ink but the effect of the evident policies are found in the staff listings and there are reasons for that.
Except for the very rare ‘exceptions’, dedicating a whole life working in resorts is very rare in Maldives. The reasons are obvious. The resorts being tiny and cut from the rest of the world by the seas and lagoons that surround, the average resort workers works on borrowed time in resorts. And whatever length of time he or she would have spent on the resort would be a great sacrifice against family and friends back at home. However the sacrifice is worth the while for some while not for others. For those who will be able to make substantial savings while working in resorts, the life in resorts would have been worthwhile. But for the vast majority of resort workers this simply is not the case. Resort life is just a necessity to get by to support families and loved one’s back home.
case in point:
Most of the Bangladeshi workers who work in resorts face a special dilemma in addition to being separated from family for extended periods of times. Most of them would have made to Maldives through ‘agencies’ or middlemen who charge exorbitant fees and commissions which are several times over the average of what could be earned in a year’s income in Maldives. With false promises and after having surrendered a mortgage on a title deed or a house or with live stocks the worker arrives in Maldives to find the situation very far from what was being promised. Promised monthly wages would seldom be given and yet the workers toil in resorts sometime for as long as 5 years without being of any benefit for the families back home or themselves. This is in fact labor exploitations big time. Officially most resort owners or managements are not aware of this exploitation and is seen as a peculiar circumstance relating to expatriate labor.
The economics of resort workers earnings..
Hillary Clinton made a big fuss about it, a Bangladeshi financier earned Nobel price because of it, but what is it?
tic, tac, tic, tac, tic, tac…. time up..!
The answer is micro financing.
Although much ignored by the politicians, its micro finance which drives communities to success and prosperity. In developed countries these lessons were learnt the hard way and they understand the need to assist the small business owners (they call SBO ..) and there are various departments in governments set up to help and develop and to assist them.
Comparing the Small Business Owner to the average resort worker, there are very interesting parallels where money is concerned. Both make sacrifices to earn a living and both earn although differently. Suppose a small business owner in the island invests 20kRf and starts a small business. If all the goods in the shop were sold out in the course of 1 month (which will not happen) he would have made a profit of 1/5th of the value of his goods which would be 4kRf. Added to this are the worries of the bills and invoices, the registration fees and the weather which determines the supply of items from Male’ etc etc. However the same kind of money (or more!) can be made by the resort boy investing his bare hands and whatever was needed as qualification at the time he was hired in to job. A resort boy who earns 4kRf is indeed the same as the SBO who invested 20kRf to earn 4kRf. that is they create the same amount of wealth although the outflow of their money is different.
For the SBO whatever he earns as disposable income will immediately go towards finances of his family whilst the resort boy’s (or girl for that matter) monies take rather treacherous routes and is more diversified which leaves the vast majority of resort workers at the end of the month…(sad to say but…) virtually penniless or in our case ‘laari-less’. The average resort boy hailing from different islands of Maldives is just like an expatriate and a stay of 1 day in the expensive city of Male’ would dent a substantial hole in the pocket for an oversized rent of a room for 1 day to start with. Following accommodation comes food which is also overpriced, tasteless and thoughtless (that’s an addition..) served in cafe’s and restaurants which makes another substantial hole in the pocket.. Like wise goes the money for the resort workers and rarely if at all does money reaches their families back at home, hence the underdevelopment found on the islands.
(to be continued ..)
“Have you chosen our resort as a career path ? Or would this be just another job…” Its standard question in many a job interview and the answer shall always be that the applicant would indeed want the position on offer to be his career path. No other answer is necessary and nothing else is expected. Its sometimes amazing how grown up people cannot grasp the eccentricity of the answers and the questions a typical job interview could unearth but its always taken in stride. For the applicant the situation demands it and for the interviewer its just part of the job. But how easy its to climb up on the corporate ladder and how rough a ride is the average career path of a resort employee?
Like all things in resort life, nothing is certain and the least that could be certain is of course the job or the career. What is needed for the doubt and suspense to end along with the career is sometimes a simple expression. “You are fired!”. What will follow is the termination papers and whatever is due as salary and that’s basically the end. Up until this very moment situation in resorts across Maldives is somewhat similar to this. Staff could be fired for anything and recourse to litigation is not something average Maldivians can afford.
To some extent how the staff can be hired can also be as hassle free if the right strings are pulled. This is true of Bangladeshis as well as Indians, Sri Lankans and Maldivians. To be hired if one is a Maldivian he or she should preferably have a close family member high up in the management hierarchy and if an expatriate than certain amounts of money will have to change hands before the deal is done.
What is important to note is that despite all the correct noises being made and the bills (not utility bills…) passed by the majlis, tourism industry in Maldives is still being steered as it was done before. What if anything changed, its the terminology and nothing else. Hence and for the reasons mentioned above, the way to climb up on the corporate ladder shall be obvious. What is required on the part of the employee is to be a “yes man” or a “yes woman” (to be affirmative no matter what..) The employee should not take it to heart all the good things preached so frequently by the management that they have to treat the resort property with as much loving and care as it were their own. Such advice are only good on paper and should be implemented if only there were witnesses to bear it or mangers passing by to notice it. The goal of the employee shall not be to be a do gooder. But to be seen as one! And that’s an important distinction.