Are Foreigners More Skilled than Locals for High Management Positions?

In a recent bill submitted by MP of Ihavandhoo constituency Mohamed Shifau, it was highlighted that companies in the tourism industry having more than 50 employees shall hire a local to manage the workforce. Further, 60% of locals shall be employed for higher management positions in the Maldives. However, this change will be executed 5 years after the law is passed.

 “This is a good move. Locals will be able to understand the guidelines and life in Maldives more than expats. It is important to uphold values,” said the General Manager of a luxury resort in Maldives. If this was the case, why did the majority of the resorts hire foreigners for higher management positions till now?

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Tourism industry has been a major employment provider in Maldives for decades. There are over 50,000 people working directly and indirectly in Maldives tourism industry. Majority of them are working in resorts. Although there are no exact figures of the locals versus foreign employee ratio available, it is likely that more than half of the employees working in the Maldives tourism industry are foreigners.

Hussain Afeef, President of Maldives Association of Human Resources Professionals (MAHRP) and Regional Director of Training, Development and Quality Assurance at LUX* Resorts & Hotels, said that regardless of a law, a local should always be in the position of HR Manager. “There was no proper guideline on this. Even though law is passed on this, it is essential to monitor resorts. I believe that there’s no reason why a foreigner should fill in the post of HR Manager.” He said that he has always advocated having a local perform the duties of an HR manager.

Afeef had stated that Investors and Operators need to run the operation and what we have seen is that they hire those who are available from the global markets. “Most operators, at times, have taken the easy way or what’s required to run the hotels. It is not necessarily they are preferred over locals. This is a topic we could argue to a great extent.”

Industry experts, including Afeef, believe that having a local as an HR Manager is extremely important. However, since the hospitality industry is a diverse sector, it could be helpful to have a foreigner, but as a second HR. Having someone who is familiar with the regulations, values and behaviour in the country is vital.

So, with this law, would the employment percentage of locals in the higher management positions of the industry improve? It could, but with effective monitoring.

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