Living in the Maldives
The Maldives are Muslim islands that has a great abundance of white, sandy beaches with alluring cyan-blue waters. It is located in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea area, making it home to various incredible diving and snorkeling sites and marine life. It is a wonderful country to venture in as an expat who is looking for a beautiful place to settle in permanently and to find opportunities.
With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $8,800 in 2011, the Maldives relies heavily on its tourism sector which generates 28% of the country’s GDP and more than 60% of foreign exchange receipts. As such, tourism became the lifeline of Maldives and also one of the main sectors that offer employment for aspiring job seekers in the country. The fishing sector is the second largest industry in the Maldives, attributed to the country’s location.
Thr Maldives has an estimated population of 328,536 in 2012 – almost one third of which are Expat workers. The majority of these are laborers from Bangladesh while others work as helpers, teachers, doctors and hospitality staff from India, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. There are also foreign nationals from Western countries, who work in the Maldives, but it constitutes only a very small portion of the population, and most of them are employed in management positions in the resort industry.
Before Expats can work in the Maldives, it is mandatory that they possess a work permit and residence permit. The application of these permits is usually organized by the prospective employer of the foreigner. Government agencies that issue the work permit and residence permit of an Expat worker include the Ministry of Employment and Labor, and the Department of Immigration and Emigration. The processing of work permits should be done 15 days after the arrival of the foreign national worker in the Maldives, but a Prior Approval from the Department of Immigration and Emigration should be possessed by the expat before they arrive in the country. As such, proper coordination must be made with the prospective employer to avoid issues and problems upon arrival in the Maldives. Foreign nationals must also keep in mind that the government of Maldives does not allow changing of visa category, so if they enter Maldives on a Tourist visa, they will not be allowed to change this into a Working Visa. Major industries that offer work opportunities for foreign nationals include tourism and shipping.
Since the Maldives is a Muslim country, the normal working days are from Sundays to Thursdays, and the general work week is 48 hours a week. Workers are entitled to 30 days of paid annual leave and 30 days of paid sick leave upon completion of one-year employment. At present, all workers in Maldives enjoy a tax-free salary because the government does not impose an income tax. However, a new bill is currently under discussion which will levy income tax on employees on a sliding scale – from 0% up to 15%.
Fridays are regarded as the rest period for the majority of the employees in the Maldives. During this day, the capital city of Male becomes very congested in the late afternoon until late evening as everyone goes shopping and enjoying the downtime from work. It is also quite common for most shops and establishments to close at a certain time during Friday to give way for the Islam prayer time.
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