President Mohamed Nasheed unveiled a massive Rf360 million (US$23 million) national programme today with an ambitious target of training 8,500 Maldivians for skilled employment.
In his address to the nation on Independence Day, President Nasheed explained that the programme would involve the creation of a training framework, raising awareness of job opportunities, offering assistance for job seekers and strengthening capacity for enforcing the Employment Act.
“Under the national programme devised by the government to lead skilled Maldivian workers to the job market, Maldivians who are urgently needed for the domestic labour market will be trained,” he said. “God willing, 6,977 Maldivians trained for the construction industry as welders, masons, electricians and other [specialities] will enter the job market.”
Meanwhile 3,800 people are to be trained as “chefs, waiters, housekeepers, diving instructors” and for other specialised jobs in the tourism industry.
“In addition, God willing we will create 450 entirely new jobs for Maldivians in the social sector as nurses, pharmacists, seamstresses and sport instructors,” he said. “860 Maldivians in fisheries and agriculture and 400 for other fields such as accounting will be put to work.”
Of the 8,500 new workers the government hopes to guide to skilled employment, 3,940 will be trained directly by their would be employers, 3,795 by government training centres, and 760 in overseas training programmes.
“The purpose of this is to familiarise youth with the work environment and create interest among them,” he said. “Also to connect the youth in training with employers and provide training in the fullest sense in as short a period as possible.”
President Nasheed revealed that 27 percent of the Maldivian workforce – composed of 205,000 working age adults – was unemployed.
“As things stand, 1,600 local companies and 2,000 individuals employ and cover expenses for over 70,000 expatriates,” he said. “Half of these expatriates are trained and skilled in some field or other.”
In the past ten years, said Nasheed, employment of foreign workers by Maldivians has increased threefold. Imported workers now constitute a third of the country’s 350,000 population, while trafficking labourers is estimated to be a US$123 million industry.
With the prevailing high unemployment rate among youth, Nasheed continued, large numbers of young Maldivians who were neither seeking higher education nor acquiring new skills were financially dependent on their families or parents.
In 2010, the O’ Level examinations pass rate in the Maldives was 35 percent, up from 27 percent in 2008, which leaves 65 percent of school leavers aged 16 to 18 with limited opportunities for either higher education or employment.
Nasheed meanwhile went on to say that leaving a large number of the country’s youth “in the darkness of the jail cell with their lives destroyed” was an obstacle to national development.
President Nasheed also announced that close to 400 youth currently serving sentences would be given “a second chance” and released from prison.
He explained that in classifying the 400 convicts to be freed, priority was given to inmates with serious illnesses and those who could pursue higher education or be trained to acquire new skills.
400 inmates represent almost half the Maafushi prison population in 2009.
“For those who meet the conditions, a rehabilitation programme will be established for those who will be rejoining society under the second chance,” Nasheed said. “The basic purpose of this programme is to train them, find job opportunities for them and to ensure that they become people who are beneficial to their families.”
Nasheed said that the government had considered the possible danger to society of releasing people convicted of offences ranging from drug abuse, theft and assault: “We have learned a lot from past experiences,” he said.
Convicts released through the programme will immediately be returned to jail if they are arrested for any offence in a three-year period, Nasheed added, after which their chances of parole or eligibility for clemency would be “narrowed.”
“Our vision for national development has been drawn after crunching all the numbers, after formulating policies and determining its parameters,” he said.