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Foreign Invasion: Mauritius’ Smile Dented by Cheap Labor



Foreign Invasion: Mauritius' Smile Dented by Cheap Labor
Image source: l'Express

In the face of a severe labor shortage, Mauritian hotels are increasingly relying on foreign workers to fill the gap. According to official figures from the Ministry of Labor, the country has 42,700 foreign workers, with 16,300 coming from India, 11,360 from Bangladesh, 7,200 from Nepal, and 5,760 from Madagascar and other African countries.

One of the main reasons for this shortage is that young Mauritians are opting for jobs that offer a better work-life balance or are working on cruise ships or abroad where salaries are more attractive.

Additionally, hotel owners like Bissoon Mungroo, president of the Association of Luxury Hotels, attribute the shortage to the fact that “Mauritians do not want to work at night, on Sundays, or on public holidays.”

He stated that this limits the hotel’s operating hours and makes it difficult to maintain a consistent service.

Employers are forced to adapt by providing training programs tailored to the local context. However, this came with its own set of challenges.

Many foreign workers are not bilingual and may not speak French, which can lead to communication issues.

“The recruitment market for foreign workers is open, but it takes two people to do the work of one because someone who speaks English may not understand French,” explained Mungroo.

This lack of linguistic proficiency can also impact the quality of service provided to customers.

“Tour operators question us and stop including us in their brochures or itineraries,” said Mungroo. “In the end, we are the ones who lose out.”

Moreover, local hospitality experts argued that this reliance on foreign workers is threatening the island’s famous hospitality.

“They are not as friendly, smiling, and welcoming as Mauritians,” says Masha Juglall. “It’s a service-oriented sector, and if the service is not good, business won’t be good.”

Dhamendra Bachu added that this trend could have long-term consequences for the island’s reputation.

“We risk having a ‘Mauritian smile’ with a Bangladeshi accent! It’s a question that policymakers must address. Otherwise, our sky will be grey at our doorstep.”

Foreign workers are not only struggling with language barriers but also facing discrimination.

Sonam shared her experience of being replaced by Indian trainees who do not speak French.

“This discrimination is worrying, especially when some senior officials from India harass Mauritians.

Despite having a good education, we are forced to leave our own country and go elsewhere because of this!”

Ashok Subron, a trade unionist and spokesperson for Rezistans ek Alternativ, highlighted another critical issue: the psychological impact of COVID-19 on workers. “With COVID-19, workers have experienced a shock and this stress persists.”

He emphasized that hotel owners prioritize profits over workers’ well-being and families.

Subron also criticized the low salaries in the industry compared to other sectors and those of expatriates working in hotels who can earn high salaries.

“This salary disparity poses a problem. It is necessary to increase salaries and improve working conditions so that young Mauritians appreciate their work and stay in their country.”

Finally, he warned that Mauritius is caught in a cycle of cheap labor exploitation. “Today, employers seek people without social lives.

A foreign worker is often isolated from their social and family life when they come here… That’s what employers want.” For Subron, Mauritius is experiencing a crisis transition.

“We want to move away from an economy based on cheap labor to a high-income economy, but employers, especially big ones, don’t want to pay. Look at the opulence announced every week in several sectors. They don’t want to share. They mistreat Mauritian workers and young people. We are witnessing gentrification.”

Mauritius is indeed facing a critical moment in its hospitality history.

Source: l’Express

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