There is a labor shortage in several sectors of activity. In order to facilitate the recruitment of foreign workers, the Minister of Finance, in the 2024-2025 budget, announced measures to accelerate the process. This measure is well received by certain economic players, while others argue that we must be careful.

For Jay Soopayah Narrain, Chief Executive Officer of RockFin Tax, the labor shortage is a major challenge that the government must address. “To address this, the government is facilitating the process of recruiting foreign workers, ensuring that key industries have access to the workforce needed to drive growth,” he explains.

Ignace Lam affirms that the measures to relax the recruitment of foreign workers are “very well received” by the business community. “Several sectors are experiencing labor shortage problems. We are not putting enough young people on the market. Some are not interested.

There is a shortage to keep the economy going. The government makes it easier to recruit foreigners, which is a good thing. It should classify the sectors that can import labor,” believes the CEO of Intermart.

Moreover, Intermart already uses foreign labor. Ignace Lam mentions that some trade unionists are opposed to it. “All major developed countries use foreign labor: Dubai, European countries, etc. We have already started bringing in labor to stock the shelves.

Afterwards, we moved on to the second stage and I encountered a lot of problems recruiting cashiers. Now, foreign workers are at the checkout. » He imports labor from Bangladesh and Nepal.

According to him, there are two important factors to take into account. The first: Mauritians do not want to do this work because of the demanding hours (open every day of the week). The second: there is not enough local labor on the market. “The aging population means there are fewer young people in the job market. »

Salil Roy, president of the Planters Reform Association, explains that for more than three years, he has been fighting for the relaxation of the procedure for recruiting foreigners. “The situation advances quickly when there are elections. It is high time to act. We see that abandoned land is used haphazardly for vegetables and cane. Often, we put the cart before the horse. Without manpower, there can be no progress. The situation is getting difficult. We are told that the procedures are relaxed, but in practice, there are problems,” he points out.

He continues that it is easy to state measures, but they must also be put into practice. “Small planters or those who own ten to fifteen acres cannot recruit labor, they do not have the means to do so. We must examine how much this measure costs the planters. We offer facilities, but they do not necessarily benefit the planters. I think a more interesting measure for agriculture would be to make labor available per establishment during the cutting season. If the planters take care of the cane, they will not encounter problems. The canes are drying out in the fields. »

For Salil Roy, the problems must be resolved. “Why would the planters not be interested in resuming their activity? The major workforce problem needs to be addressed, but it is not enough to throw the doors wide open. Some planters cannot import labor because it is too expensive. I hope this will be put on fast track. The cutting begins and we are facing a shortage of labor,” says our interlocutor.

Deepak Benydin, trade unionist: “let Mauritians not be marginalized”

“Mauritians must not be marginalized and sacrificed. The priority is to place everyone on an equal footing. We must give Mauritians a chance, because the country is blessed with a good number of talents,” maintains Deepak Benydin.

The measures of the Minister of Finance

To accelerate the recruitment of foreign workers:

  • The Agricultural Workers (Job Contractors) Regulations will be amended to provide greater flexibility for recruitment into the agricultural sector
  • Foreign labor quotas will be removed in the manufacturing, jewelry, freeport and ICT/BPO sectors
  • The maximum time to have or renew a Work Permit will be three weeks
  • The maximum renewal period for the manufacturing sector increases to ten years
  • Retired non-citizens, holders of a Residence Permit, will be authorized to work without an additional Work Permit or Occupation Permit

Here is a table representing foreign workers according to their nationality according to figures from the Ministry of Labor:

Nationality Number of workers
India 16,300
Bangladesh 11,360
Nepal 7,200
Madagascar 5,760

Faizal Ally Beegun, trade unionist and defender of the rights of foreign workers: “there must not be abuses”

Faizal Ally Beegun explains that the International Monetary Fund says Mauritius must resort to foreign labor because of the aging population. “We talk about the workforce without looking at living conditions. Some foreigners are exploited. Some employers think they are importing a machine or a robot to work,” he observes.

According to the trade unionist, when the government says that we must recruit for the country's economy. “It is our role, as trade unionists, journalists, ministers and Prime Minister to tell Mauritians that these foreign workers are not coming to steal their work. It's a lie. There are certain jobs that Mauritians do not want to do. »

Faizal Ally Beegun says you have to be frank. “In the free zone, workers feel like they are in prison. From 7:20 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., they are locked in the factory surrounded by fences. They often have to work overtime until 9 p.m., or even 10 p.m. On Saturdays, they work from 7:30 a.m. to 3 or 5 p.m. The Mauritians no longer want to do this work. We must therefore call on foreign labor for the free zone and other sectors such as bakery, pastry and pharmacy,” says Faizal Ally Beegun.

Even bus companies are asking to recruit foreign workers as drivers. “Many Mauritians go to Canada, England, Italy and New Zealand. It is surprising that the Mauritian government has not yet understood why so many young people are leaving the country. The government must determine the reasons for these departures. »

He continues that Mauritius must paradoxically call on foreign labor. “Some Mauritians who do not follow the news easily think that these workers are coming to take their jobs. These foreign workers, for thirty years, have contributed a lot to the country's economy. The government is calling on them for vacancies in textiles, the seafood sector, plantations, hotels, transport and confectionery. »

The trade unionist recommends that recruitment take into account living conditions. “The dormitories often leave something to be desired. Exploitation must stop, as well as human trafficking. Workers are told that they will earn Rs 30,000 or more, but sometimes they do not receive the guaranteed salary which is now Rs 20,000.

»Are foreign workers easier to exploit or more available? According to him, abuse must be avoided. “Yes, we need foreign workers, but they must not be exploited. Some do not even receive the minimum wage, and if they protest, they are deported. Because of this, some flee before being deported. » For him, the “inhumane” deportation must stop.

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