Minister of Human Resources Hassan Lateef, has denied that the government has loosened quotas on the hiring of expatriate workers like domestic servants, claiming regulatory reforms published last week had been designed to try “simplify” hiring foreigners.
Lateef told Minivan News that under new reforms, organisations or individuals wanting to hire expatriates would no longer have to apply for a quota before completing a separate application for a work permit, as part of attempts to make hiring foreign staff easier for employees and employers alike.
The minister added that the amendments, expected to be in place from next week, would continue to permit eligible households to hire a single domestic servant only.
“Some media outlets have been reporting that the government has removed quotas on certain expatriate workers, but this is not the idea at all,” he claimed.
Newspaper Haveeru reported today that amendments had been put forward in the government gazette on Thursday (March 26) to lift quota limits on expatriate employees hired to work either for government authorities, or as volunteer social workers or domestic servants.
Lateef claimed that the published reforms represented a procedural change for the Ministry of Human Resources due to concerns that the additional requirements of imposing a quota system on foreign workers was “totally unnecessary” alongside the existing work permit system.
The minister claimed that the process of an employer having to apply for a separate staff quota had made it difficult to replace expatriate staff such as domestic help quickly.
“There is no point in having too many layers in terms of [hiring] procedure. When it comes to household staff, it can be difficult to replace expatriate workers quickly,” he said. “Yet each household can still apply for only one domestic servant. This criteria is exactly the same as before the amendments were put forward.”
After being published in the government gazette, Lateef said that the amendments were expected to come into place next week.
With these amended regulations coming into place within 15 days of their gazette publication, the minister said he believed that collaboration would be needed with other official bodies such as the Department of Immigration and Emigration to oversee the measures.
Just last month, the Maldives’ Controller of Immigration told Minivan News that the country needed to address its failure in not having adopted a national immigration policy to protect and control an expatriate workforce, which he estimated to at least equal the number of domestic labourers.
Controller Abdulla Shahid said at the time that that a lack of immigration controls or quota policy in the Maldives had left valuable foreign workers vulnerable to “inhumane” treatment from unscrupulous employers once they had legitimately arrived in the country.
Lateef said that in considering these apparent issues with immigration control in the country, he accepted that the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports would need to work collaboratively with fellow ministries over the changes.
“One cannot separate the issue of hiring expatriate workers between the immigration department and human resources officials. Like with any foreign workers, in hiring domestic servants we do have some [immigration] problems, which is why both systems should be linked,” he said.
Lateef claimed that there was significant work to be done with implementing the new regulations therefore, potentially requiring some additional policy changes to be made by the Department of Immigration and Emmigration.
However, speaking about the amendments to hire expatriate workers and replace the previous quota systems, Immigration Controller Shahid said today that he saw the new system as nothing more than a procedural change that would not significantly impact border control.
Although the changes to the quota requirements were likely to put more responsibility on labour authorities at the Ministry of Human resources, Shahid claimed the system was expected to make hiring expatriate domestic servants a “bit easier” in the country in the future.