In 1992 the fishing industry employed about 22 percent of the labor force, making it the largest single source of employment in Maldives. However, a high level of disguised unemployment existed on a seasonal basis as a result of climatic conditions.
Despite its importance as a source of government revenues, tourism provides little meaningful employment opportunities to Maldivians. Tourism accounts for only about 6 percent of the country's labor force. Because most Maldivians have no education beyond primary school, most lack the required knowledge of foreign languages to cater to foreign tourists. As a result, nonMaldivians filled most of the best jobs in the tourist industry. Indigenous employment on the resort islands was also discouraged by the government's efforts to limit contact between Maldivians and Westerners to prevent adverse influence on local Islamic mores. Also, the low season for tourists, the time for rainy monsoons from late April to late October, coincides with the low season for the fishing industry.
After fishing, the largest source of employment is in the industrial sector, including mining, manufacturing, power, and construction. Although this sector also accounted for nearly 22 percent of the labor force in 1990, most employment was in traditional small-scale cottage industries. Women are mainly employed in these activities, such as coir rope making from coconut husks, cadjan or thatch-weaving from dried coconut palm leaves, and mat weaving from indigenous reeds. The ancient task of cowrie-shell collecting for export is another occupation in which only women participate. In the early 1990s, a small number of modern industries were operating, mostly fish canning and garment making. The largest garment factories are Hong Kongowned and occupy abandoned hangars and other maintenance buildings at the former British air station on Gan. They employ about 1,500 local women who are bused in and about 500 young Sri Lankan women who reside at the site working nightshift.
Other forms of employment in 1990 were minor. Government administration accounts for about 7 percent of workers; transportation and communications, 5 percent; trade, 3 percent; and mining of coral, 1 percent.
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