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.


Foreigners barred from cashier jobs as President promises work for Maldivians

Economic development minister Mohamed Saeed has told local media that it will be illegal to hire expatriate workers as cashiers from April 2015.

“A large percentage of the Maldivian youth is unemployed and looking for employment,” Saeed told Haveeru. “All they need is support and guidance”.

Saeed’s announcement closely follows comments made by President Abdulla Yameen yesterday noting that new economic opportunities were being created for Maldivians, not foreign workers.

“This is not to say anything of disrespect to any neighboring or foreign countries,” said the president. “But these jobs are created by the Maldives. Be it in the tourism industry, from hotel industry work to refrigerator work, these jobs are not created for foreigners, but for the Maldivian Youth.”

Yameen’s comments came during the graduation ceremony of the ‘Dhasvaaru 2014’ vocational training programme yesterday evening (December 30).

“The government’s current policy for strengthening the economy is working towards the theme ‘Maldivian work for Maldivians’. The economy is creating jobs, the economy is filling those jobs with Maldivians. This will result in a sound economy,” said the president.

Youth employment has been a major focus of the Yameen administration, which has pledged to create 94,000 new jobs during its five year term.

Economic development minister Saeed is reported to have told Haveeru today that authorities will stop issuing quotas to foreign workers for work as cashiers, after having received a number of complaints.

During yesterday evening’s ceremony, President Yameen reminded the graduates that their job security entirely depended on their work ethic, enthusiasm, and competence – noting that these qualities must be self taught.

“Even if you know how to do the work very well, even if you are very skilled, you will still have to develop proper work ethics on your own.”

Local youth-led NGO Democracy House states unemployment among the youth (aged 15-24) may be as high as 43 percent.

Youth employment

A recent Democracy House publication, however, highlighted a “disconnect” between the current school curriculum and life skills, noting that many were “not able to handle adult responsibilities after we leave school.”

While the government has established a youth unemployment register with 13,000 individuals, youth minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal has reported receiving complaints from businesses about individuals failing to attend interviews and quitting jobs within a few weeks.

Earlier this month, Maldives Airports Company Ltd head Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem told a Majlis committee that difficulties with local staff had resulted in a dependence on foreign employees, and even military assistance, to keep the international airport running.

After being summoned to the government oversight committee regarding the company’s failure to replace foreign staff with local employees, Saleem informed MPs that 500 employees were currently on leave.

“We loaded and unloaded cargo three times with assistance of army personnel. I don’t think any of you know this. Our employee attendance is low. The process of letting go an employee, so complicated. The foreigners are there to bridge all this,” explained Saleem.

Shortly after his appointment as home minister late last year, Umar Naseer mooted the idea of national service for the country’s youth in order to instill discipline, as well as suggesting that many jobs carried out by foreign workers could be done by locals.

“There is no task too menial or lowly for a Maldivian,” said Naseer at the launch of a ‘Blues for Youth’ camp – organised by the police with the aim of preparing adolescents for the job market.

“None of the work currently being conducted by foreigners in this country is either lowly or dirty work. It is not something that we Maldivians cannot do,” said the home minister.

The 2014 census showed the expatriate population to be 58,683, although Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim – who also heads the immigration department – has said the real figure is more likely to be double this amount.

As part of the government’s drive to reduce undocumented workers in the Maldives, Nazim’s department has deported or repatriated 7,962 undocumented foreign workers so far this year under a voluntary departure programme.

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

Democracy House Maldives has launched its ‘#policy22’ campaign, highlighting the importance of youth participation in decision-making at the policy level.

The campaign – given its name in relation to the percentage of the Maldivian population classed as youth – seeks to create a platform where the youth’s concerns can be heard and acted upon by decision makers.

The youth-led NGO released a report titled ‘Youth Voices’ on December 25, with members of the youth community presenting the report to MPs outside the Majlis, and taking ‘selfies’ with those in support of the campaign.

Democracy House’s Dhumya Mohamed explained that the booklet contained concerns put forward by the youth through a number of consultations as well as including information from several reports on Maldivian youth.

“Over 40 individuals attended the last consultation. The most pressing issue brought forward by the youth was lack of opportunities to participate in policy level decision making,” said Dhumya.

The report notes that there is currently no culture of consultation with the youth despite making up such a significant proportion of the population. The report requests parliamentarians to get youth opinion during the legislative process and to ensure the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution.

Published last month, the booklet highlights additional problems brought forward during the consultations such as unemployment and the exploitation of youth in politics.

Youth unemployment

In the report, Democracy House expressed concern at the high youth unemployment rate, noting that there is little awareness and no proper enforcement of the Employment Act.

Suggestions to tackle the high rate of unemployment include utilising youth centers for youth leadership and capacity building programmes, and encouraging young entrepreneurs.

While speaking to Minivan News, Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said that the government’s aim is to reduce unemployment to three or four percent in the next five years.

Maleeh pointed out that a youth unemployment register has been created and that there are 13,000 registered individuals within the system.

“We provide the database for organisations who are seeking recruits. However, we have received complaints of individuals not reporting to interviews, work, and also of quitting work within weeks,” said Maleeh.

Maleeh speculated that a significant percentage of youth unemployment is voluntary while stating that the government is running awareness campaigns and career guidance to increase the motivation of young people.

The #policy22 booklet noted a “disconnect” between the current school curriculum and life skills noting that many were “not able to handle adult responsibilities after we leave school.”

Democracy House states youth unemployment to be as high as 43 percent, though the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates the figure to be at 30 percent. The current government has pledged to create 94,000 jobs during its term.

One request mentioned in the #policy22 booklet appears to be being addressed by the government, with President Abdulla Yameen launching the ‘Get Set – Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Program’ last month. The scheme aims to provide MVR200 million (US$12.9 million) in loans to assist the development of small and medium sized enterprises.

Exploiting youth for political gain

The Democracy House report claimed that there is “misconduct and illegal activities” aimed at youth from the political arena such as “bribing and promises of advancement such as job opportunities, during campaigning”.

The report said that the youth is often used to gain numbers at political rallies and mobilised at political events “basically to make noise rather than do anything substantial”.

A 2012 assessment on gangs operating in Maldives said that many gangs receive income through exchanges with political actors or business people and that the exchange is usually in the form of money or sometimes alcohol.

The study read that gangs were given incentives to participate in political protests, start political riots, destroy property or injure a third party, and that money is often given to gangs to initiate a fight so as to divert media attention from a political issue.

Despite the strong youth platform of President Yameen’s election campaign, youth leaders have previously criticised the government for a failure to consult with youth groups when formulating policy.

Democracy House called for campaign activities to be better monitored, and candidates that go against political party and elections laws and regulations to be penalised.

Founded in 2008 the NGO aims to promote a culture of democratic ideals and values in the Maldives and amongst its people through educational initiatives.

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Government to collect statistics on youth unemployment

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has announced it will collect statistics on youth unemployment as part of the government’s pledge to create 94,000 new jobs.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had pledged to provide vocational training, and help unemployed youth find jobs.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed had started a vocational training programme ‘Hunaru’ worth MVR 360 million (US$23 million) in 2011 to lead 8,500 youth to skilled employment in a variety of fields. However, the programme was stopped in February 2012 following Nasheed


Over 1,600 unwanted jobs in Male’: HR Ministry

With over 1,600 job opportunities in the Male’ region, only 300 people seeking employment have registered at the Human Resource Ministry’s career guidance center, reports Haveeru.

According to Deputy Minister Hussein Ismail, a survey conducted last month showed that there were 1,639 vacancies in private businesses and offices in Male’ alone. Some 24,094 employers in Male’ were surveyed.

However, only 300 people have applied at the ministry’s career guidance centre looking for jobs.

Of the total 22,642 employees in private enterprises in the Greater Male’ region, 10,210 are expatriates. Some 23,849 locals are meanwhile employed in the civil service.