MORE JOBS THAN PEOPLE – SEYCHELLES TRULY IS ANOTHER WORLD
(Posted 22nd March 2014)
Astonishing news came out of the Seychelles yesterday when the country’s Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St. Ange, shared an opinion piece filed earlier by Nirmal Shah of Nature Seychelles, in which the author described the Seychelles as a place with more jobs than people to fill them.
The Seychelles government has over the past five years, since the Bretton Woods institutions demanded, and actually got those crucially important structural adjustment measures following the world’s financial crisis in 2008/9, put added emphasis into empowering the local business community and encouraging entrepreneurship especially in the thriving tourism industry. Significant progress was made over these years and Minister St. Ange has more than once suggested that Seychellois need to take charge of their own economy, take charge of their tourism industry – and what better way than actually investing in hospitality and related services, becoming a creator of jobs rather than a job seeker.
While for now the country continues to be on a tourism growth path, with arrivals over the past few years growing significantly, there is a general understanding on the island that at a certain time, when all available beach spots have been sanctioned for development, there will have to be a cap on things, especially considering the challenges to provide sufficient fresh water to the local population AND a growing number of resorts, besides keeping electricity generation on the same growth path by using increasingly renewable energy sources.
That time however is still some distance away and with more resorts, hotels, guest houses and self-catering establishments coming up, there is a growing need for competent staff with the required skills to provide quality services to guests. The Seychelles Tourism Academy is clearly playing their role to turn out more course graduates holding certificates and diplomas while at the same time creating a managerial cadre pool by providing degree courses, in house and of course through the partnership with the Shannon hospitality college.
But as Nirmal’s article – transcribed in full further below – states, right now there is a situation of literally full employment, at least for those who are willing to acquire new skills and are ready to start a career in the tourism industry. No wonder the Seychelles are known around the world as the tropical Creole island paradise, and seemingly not just for the magnificent beaches, the marine and terrestrial national parks and reserves, the friendliness of the people and the range of attractions on offer for visitors, but also as an economically stable country, where expatriate labour is actually needed to fill those jobs for which there simply are no Seychellois available. Interesting perspectives and for sure an exciting future ahead for Seychelles, Another World.
More jobs than people in Seychelles
Mr Nirmal Jival Shah of Nature Seychelles and a respected Seychellois with his own column in a local weekly newspaper wrote last week that Seychelles is one of the few countries where there are more vacant positions than people to fill them. It’s a no brainer- a scan of the advertisements in any edition of the Seychelles Nation will reveal the scores of jobs available in this country. This can mean only one thing; the economy is growing and all manner of companies, small to large, are actively trying to recruit new talent.
Economics success – This is an incredible success story and we should be shouting it from the rooftops. The president said in the State Of the Nation Address that there are only 602 persons who are currently unemployed. There may be others who are not working, but they are not seeking employment as are the 602. This is equivalent to an unemployment rate which is a little more than 1%, and is one of the lowest in the world. The labour force survey of 2011-2012 published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed an unemployment rate of 4%.
But instead of running in the streets and celebrating, we argue endlessly about employment. I would say that much of the arguments revolves around the issue of expatriate labour and nationalization of post.
Economic Success means more foreign labour – The number of people in formal employment in Seychelles has increased and is about 51,500. Included are over 625 expatriates working in the government and parastatal sectors. The private sector employs thousands more expatriates but they are not included in the National Bureau of Statistics statistics. It is estimated however from other sources that the number is about 14, 000. The World Bank says that in many countries labour is an important part of the economy. Using migrant labour can contribute to the development of a country, as has been the case in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, the Gulf countries, and even the US. But it warns that there are associated problems such as taking jobs from locals. This cannot be the case in Seychelles. Last year more than 3,200 jobs were created. And, there are many more on the horizon. The president said that the two new hotels at Beau Vallon will by themselves need 600 staff. And, there are more tourism developments and other types of business venture in the pipeline. Last year 1,200 new businesses were registered. As our ambitions grow we want the economy to keep the pace. But where will the human resources come from?
Where are the Seychellois? – A substantial proportion of the human resources will continue to be imported because there isn’t enough local work-….. Middle income country and has the same demographic characteristics of other middle-income nations. The population is aging. Today more than 40% of the population is older than 45. By next year, more than 10% of the population will have reached retirement age. In 40 years the population will not be growing at all!! A very scared though indeed. So! Expatriate labour is the only route to growing the economy. This is simple but loaded statement. Its loaded because we have not really come to terms with this economic need. There is tension between competing national objectives, which are to generate economic growth on the one hand and to limit the number of expatriate workers on the other.
A plan – What we really need is a comprehensive national plan that addresses all issues to do with expatriate labour. This plan must link immigration and labour policies to macroeconomic policy to achieve growth and increase markets, but perhaps also complementing population policy to reduce the negative trend of a declining population by granting citizenship to certain types of persons.
This citizenship thing is a particular conundrum. People have a hard time discussing it rationally. Singapore has tried to tackle it quite smartly. Singapore’s policy distinguishes between skilled “talent” and manual workers, targeting the later for only temporary jobs. Highly skilled professionals by contrast are demand, especially in the context of greater international competition and strategic sectors and are encourage to emigrate through minimal restrictions on residence and naturalization. ……. reviewed to ensure these do not happen in future, as the pool of manual workers increase, the plan must in addition take into account leisure space for the foreigners. The massing of Indian workers along the street corners and under public buildings on public holidays is disconcerting but fact they have nowhere to go for rest and relaxation.
Expatriates on tap not on top – Although we depend on expatriate labour, it must be Seychellois who lead and provide directions- basically we must chart our own destiny, about 25 years ago, I used a phrase in one of my article : “expatriates must be on tap not top”. This means that foreigners cant tell us what to do and how to run our lives.
Facilitating Seychellois entrepreneurship and leadership is highly desirable. Despite government emphasis on training and on supporting SMEs. We find that success is mixed. One of the constraints is reliable and productive labour. Expatriate workers can help in graduating Seychellois from being employed to self-employed. More Seychellois can set up their own businesses if there are enough human resources for them to rely on.
The future economy is bright but we have now come to face a harsh reality. We just do not have enough Seychellois in this country to maintain the jobs available.