Overseas workers banned from cashier jobs

A ban on foreigners working as cashiers took effect today in an attempt to boost employment among local young people, almost a third of whom are jobless.

However, overseas workers were still seen working as cashiers, while some employers said they had trouble finding young Maldivians to fill the roles.

The Ministry of Economic Development changed the regulation on migrant workers earlier this year to bar foreigners from working as cashiers in cafés, restaurants and shops.

The ministry also began free training programs in collaboration with businesses for Maldivians wishing to be cashiers, but some businesses remain unprepared for the change.

“My boss came today because I can’t work behind the counter anymore,” said an migrant worker who was previously a cashier at Mariyam Café in Malé.

He is still employed at the cafe but will take on a different role.

Although the new regulation aims to increase employment among young Maldivians, some businesses have experienced problems with younger local staff.

“I employed three or four [Maldivian] youths before. But I can’t manage the business with them because they do not come to work regularly,” said Mohamed Sanah, who runs Laasany, a family-run shop on Orchid Road in the capital.

Ali jaleel, owner of a local goods shop, praised the change in the rules.

“I’m the one who is always behind this counter,” he said. “I see a lot of foreigners working as cashiers.

“It would be a good change for Maldivians to do the job instead of them. At least the money wouldn’t go outside the country then.”

Some 26.5 per cent of Maldivians aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, according to World Bank figures from 2013, the most recent figures available.

Government figures place the number of overseas workers in the Maldives at 58,000, but other estimates place as high as twice that figure. Most are in the construction industry.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Youth Ministry were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

President Abdulla Yameen pledged to create 95,000 jobs in his five-year term. He claimed 17,000 jobs were created within his first year, and claimed credit, but did not provide details.


Maldivian Youth “disenfranchised and excluded”, finds World Bank report

Maldivian youth feel “disenfranchised and excluded” and “disconnected from the fabric of society” suggests a World Bank report released today.

Rising globalisation, internet use, and economic expansion has “exposed young women and men to the outside world and new ideas and values, making them acutely aware of what they can aspire to,” read the report.

“Yet, both female and male youth face the shackles of the limited island economy, lack empowerment and community engagement, and contend with rigid norms of behaviour and increasingly conservative values, as well as an inadequate education and training system that ill prepares them for the labor market.”

The report argued that these issues meant that many young Maldivians are being “denied passage into adulthood”.

Titled ‘Youth in the Maldives: Shaping a new future for young women and men through engagement and empowerment’, the report was compiled using focus groups and surveys, in order to address the “dearth of data” on young people in the country.

Physical isolation, thwarted expectations, family breakdown, and gang participation were revealed as major challenges facing 15-24 year olds, while new insights were offered into the country’s large youth unemployment problem.

The World Bank recommended a concerted national youth campaign to present a new vision of youth, an increase in preventative healthcare, and further efforts to better understand the reasons for youth unemployment.

President Abdulla Yameen has maintained a pro-youth rhetoric since his election in 2013, pledging to create 94,000 jobs for the Maldivian youth – officially recognised as being aged between aged 15-35.

As well as launching a youth unemployment register and clearing the criminal records for many youth offenders, the government has recently launched the ‘GetSet’ entrepreneurship programme, in which young people between the ages 18-25 can apply for business start-up loans.


The Maldives has the highest percentage of youth unemployment in the South East Asia region with 22 percent of its youth unemployed, stated the World Bank report.

It found that young people lacked socio-emotional and other skills required in the job market, but that young people expect high or unrealistic wages, leading to the “national phenomenon” of “youth voluntary unemployment”.

“Added to this reality are the perceptions and expectations of parents with regard to what is an acceptable job and wage for their children, leading to limited support and encouragement for youth to be economically active,” the report continued.

Interviews and focus groups suggested that parents were actually contributing to youth unemployment by supporting them financially so as to avoid undesirable employment.

“Findings indicate that parents would rather pay their sons and daughters not to work than to let them work in a job which they consider beneath them; a notable 50% of young people surveyed in the field-based research solely stated that they rely on their parents as their main source of income,” the report read.

The reports also noted rising inter-generational tensions as the Maldives continues to undergo rapid social transformation.

“Older generations (adults) frequently see youth as ‘unambitious,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘disconnected,’ and focused on ‘me’ rather than ‘us,’ while the younger generations, especially those young men and women who have studied or worked in Malé and beyond, see themselves as part of a global village, fast-paced and modern society, where individual aspirations over take family traditions.”

The physical isolation caused by geographical distribution of the islands was also found to present difficulty in travelling, mobility, and accessing public services leading to limited opportunities -especially for women – the report found.

Changes needed

Addressing the growing issues of gang membership in the country, the World Bank noted that young people were joining gangs for reasons including inactivity and apathy, unemployment, drug use, and “the need for young men to prove their masculinity”.

Gangs were also said to fill a need for support and social structure as well as for male role models, with high rates of divorce meaning the Maldives has one of the highest rates of female-headed households in the world (35 percent).

“A further problem is that people with drug or criminal offenses experience difficulties in reintegrating into society and finding jobs; access to counseling and rehabilitation services, especially for young people, is limited and inadequate,” the report said.

In recent years gender inequality has also worsened in the Maldives, the report continued, with civil society groups reporting “significantly increasing restrictions” on how women dress, mobility, forms of employment, and the ability to make independent decisions.

Lack of reproductive health facilities were also cited as a problem in the report, with a lack of sufficient knowledge about preventative healthcare placing young people at risk.

The report concluded by calling for a long-term strategy of broad youth empowerment.

“Engaging youth to be productive and content members of society will first and foremost require a radical shift in the way that youth are perceived and valued by adults, policy makers and society-at-large,” concluded the World Bank.

Read the full report here

Related to this story

Democracy House launches #policy22 campaign calling for youth participation in policy-making

President Yameen launches MVR200 million ‘Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Programme’

President Yameen calls on youth to relocate to Hulhumalé


Government pledges to train 2000 cashiers

The Ministry of Economic Development has announced it will train 2,000 Maldivians to work as cashiers in shops, cafes, and restaurants.

“I ask that the ministry be informed of any difficulties faced by those who want jobs in shops,” economic development minister Mohamed Saeed told Haveeru.

Saeed last month announced that it would be illegal for any expatriates to be hired for cashier work from April this year, as the government strives to provide ‘Maldivian work for Maldivians’.

President Abdulla Yameen – who has based much of his policy around the youth – hopes to strengthen the Maldivian economy by providing work for the large unemployed youth population, having pledged to create 94,000 jobs during his term.

Democracy House states youth unemployment to be as high as 43 percent, while the International Labor Organisation estimates the figure to be at 30 percent.

Last week the government announced it was to cease granting permits for foreign photographers in order to provide greater opportunities for young Maldivian photographers.

Other pro-youth policies by the Yameen administration have included pledges to turn Hulhumalé into a ‘Youth city’ and the introduction of the ‘Get Set – Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Programme’, which aims to distribute MVR200 million (US$12.9 million) worth of loans for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Source: Haveeru


Rise in female unemployment, growth in gender pay disparity

A woman working in the Maldives between 2006 and 2010 monthly earned a third less than her male counterpart in the same job, according the results of a new survey by the Department of National Planning, while young female entrants  are struggling to find jobs.

High female unemployment

According to the ‘Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2009-2010’, 38,493 people (28 percent) were unemployed in 2010, of which 14,142 (37 percent) were male while 24,351 were female – almost double the male rate of unemployment.

The report highlights that between 2006 and 2010 unemployment increased by 20,000 – an increase of over 100 percent. The number of jobless women and men rose by 93 percent and 141 percent respectively.

According to the report, unemployment continued to be highest among females. In 2006, the overall unemployment rate for women was 15 percent, increasing to 39 percent in 2010, while male unemployment increased 10 percent to 19 percent in the same period.

Furthermore, nearly half the population of working-age women (45 percent) were recorded as not economically active, while only a fourth of the male working age population fell in this category. However the study did not take into account the high proportion of women working in small household-manufacturing activities, or those working on industrial islands or resorts – which if included, will significantly affect the results drawn under this survey.

While 40 percent women surveyed reported the reason for their unemployment as “unable to find suitable employment”, the second highest reason for female joblessness was due to their “engagement in household chores”. This was followed by “lack of opportunities” and “school attendance”.

The report also concluded that most unemployment existed in the young age groups, with the 15- 19 years and 20 – 24 years age group accounting for about 43 percent of the unemployment in the country. Out of the 17,083 unemployed youth, 51 percent are males, and 49 percent female.

The planning department stated that “for policy purposes, it is very important to decipher the reasons for the high levels of unemployment, in the youth age group as well as among the females, and understanding the differences between locations.”

Among the reasons for unemployment in the youth group (15 – 24 years), “unable to find suitable employment” ranks the highest followed by “lack of opportunities” and in third “youth engaged in studies”, according to the survey.

Struggle for work

Employment of males increased four percent during the four year period, while employment of women fell seven percent.

The planning department concluded that “this indicates a huge influx of ‘new working age population’ to the labour force, of which more male entrants succeeded in obtaining a job while the fairer sex did not.”

“It is clear from the rising levels of unemployment that the Maldives has been unable to create jobs to accommodate new job seekers. Particularly young new entrants, and specifically females in the job market, struggle to find a job.”

“For males, it is the age groups at both ends that experience significant unemployment, while for the females, all age groups have similar unemployment rates except for the 65 years and above,” the department added.

Between 2006 and 2010, the total working age population increased significantly, however, “new jobs did not emerge to absorb this huge increase, boosting unemployment,” the report observed. “In fact compared to 2006, in 2010 there were close to 600 fewer jobs in the labour market.”

The total larbor force amounted to 136,886 people in 2010, of which 45 percent were women.

According to a UNDP report “Women in Public Life in the Maldives” published last year  a “considerable gap”  exists in women’s opportunities in taking active part in economic and political life” while “there were no policies in place that provide equal opportunities for women’s employment.”

“The absence of childcare facilities make it difficult for women to remain employed after they have children. The HRCM also received reports that some employers discouraged women from marriage or pregnancy, as it could result in employment termination or demotion,” the report said.

Restriction on women’s mobility and reluctance from family members to allow women to travel alone to other islands for work were also identified as key obstacle to employment.

While the tourism industry contributes indirectly to over 70 percent of the national income, a report published in September 2011found that social stigma prevented women from working in the sector.

According to the study, “Women in Tourism: Challenges of Including Women in the Maldivian Resort Sector”, Maldivian women accounted for only three percent of all women working in the sector – which was already 92 percent male dominated.

Gender earning gaps

The planning department found during the survey that “similar work  paid different remunerations depending on sex and location.”

According to the report, on average a male earned Rf7036 (US$456) per month, whereas a female earned about a third less of what a male earned – Rf4674 (US$303). This discrepancy is observed across Male’ as well as the atolls.

For example, in the ‘Financial Intermediation’ and ‘Extra-territorial’ industries, which account for highest monthly incomes, a male earned more than Rf11,000 (US$713) whereas a female in this same industry earned 19 percent less – Rf9000 (US$583). Men earned more than women in almost all industries studied.

Meanwhile, legislators, senior officials and managers across the board on average earned the highest monthly income, with males in this occupation category earning more than Rf13,000 (US$843) while females earned only a little more than Rf 9000 (US$583).

“Those employed in Male’ earn more than those in the atolls for all industries except quarrying and the financial intermediation industries,” noted the Planning Department in the report. “This signifies that across all industries, males are paid higher than females and earners in Male’ are paid higher than those in the atolls.”

“It is interesting to study the returns to employment for wage earners by occupation, by location, and gender. The question why males are paid higher incomes than females, for the same jobs and in the same occupation or same industry, is worth additional research,” the department suggested.

Financial intermediation sector and extra-territorial organizations and bodies sector were found to have the slightest indication of gender balance in the workforce, while all other industries were dominated by male or female.

More women were employed in elementary occupations with a substantial 21 percent increase while male employment decreased in this occupation by three percent, the report noted. A high proportion of these jobs are concentrated in the public administration, with a higher share of women amongst the government employees.


Maldives ranks first in Asia/Pacific for education spending and divorce rate: OECD report

The Maldives has the highest divorce rate and ranks number one in the Asia Pacific region on education spending as a percentage of GDP, according to the ‘Society at a Glance: Asia/Pacific 2011’ overview of social indicators released by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) last month.

The Maldives spends the highest proportion of GDP on public education (8.1 percent) across the Asia/Pacific region, the report found, which was four times higher than countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar.

The Ministry of Education’s expenditure in 2011 amounted to Rf1.7 billion (US$110 million).

Maldives was also among developing Asia/Pacific nations that experienced rapid declines in fertility rates, slowing down in 2008 to fertility rates comparable with OECD countries.

The divorce rate in the Maldives is meanwhile “three times higher than the average of the Asia/Pacific countries and economies.”

A four percent decrease in the marriage rate was however the sharpest decline in the region, while a five percent rise in divorce rates was the fastest.

On the level of employment, the Maldives ranks alongside Sri Lanka and Indonesia where “more than one in four economically active young people is unemployed.”

Moreover, female unemployment in the Maldives “is more than three times the male rate.”

The pension system meanwhile covered 24 percent of the labour force and 16 percent of the working age population.

The report noted that Maldives, along with Vietnam and Thailand, was not far behind Australia in the percentage of pre-school children attending an early education programme. However, similar to Tajikistan and Laos, Maldives has “a slightly higher attendance for boys.”

Average years of total schooling in the Maldives as of 2010 was 6.1, well below the OECD average of 12.7.

Of the population indicators measured in the report, the gender ratio in the Maldives was 103 males per 100 females.

Life expectancy at birth of the total population between 1990 and 2008 was 71.6 years, slightly higher than the Asia/Pacific average. Japan was ranked first with 82.6 years.

As of 2008, infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births was 12.7, higher than the OECD average of 4.6.

On the availability of water and sanitation, 98 percent of the population had access to the utility services.

Suicide rates in the country was the fourth highest in the region at 22.4 (deaths per 100,000).

Voter turnout meanwhile averaged at 71 percent. However 85 percent of the population voted in the historic presidential election of October 2008.


Police seek cooperation to stop gang violence

Police are launching a major operation to minimise gang violence, reports Miadhu.

Police have communicated with the courts, the Prosecutor General’s office, People’s Majlis and the media.

Police said gang violence is rising, and a gang-related case is reported to the Police every 27 minutes. There have been thirteen deaths and many injuries in the last three years relating to these cases.

Police said the main reasons behind gang violence were lack of education, unemployment and drugs. Police said most gang members were aged between 15 and 21.

Police Commissioner Faseeh asked the media for their full cooperation. He said full cooperation from all concerned members was essential in abating crime.