Migrant labour underpins industry: Mauritius' booming textiles industry is having to depend more and more heavily on imported labour, mostly from India and China. Nasseem Ackbarally reports from Port Louis.

Author:Ackbarally, Nasseem

Foreign workers in Mauritius now number some 22,000, among whom 10,850 are Chinese, 7,310 are Indians and 720 are from Madagascar. These are the men and women who make machines work in the textile industry in Mauritius. Without them, many factories would be unable to manufacture the required quantity of garments and clothing to supply European and American buyers on time.

Foreign labour was first brought to the island in 1989 at a time when Mauritians had plenty of jobs. The alien workers were only a few hundred, recruited by a few factories having difficulties in attracting local people. Since then, they have been coming in their thousands, attracted by the prospects of making and saving small fortunes before returning home after a few years of hard work.

Many, if not all of them, are happy to work in the islands. Prakash Marad, an Indian employed by Sentosa Knitwear, in the north of the island, judged that working for a few years in Mauritius has had a beneficial impact on him and his family's life in India.

His friends approve. They say that the money saved by working hard here helps them to improve their quality of life and that of the families they left behind in their country.

Avinash Bandar mentions cases where many of his compatriots who have worked in Mauritius have invested their savings in small trades, built houses for themselves and their families and bought cars and land. All this would have been impossible had they not gone to work in Mauritius.


Zhou Ru Qzao, a Chinese woman, has been working on the island for the last two years. Her dream is to earn enough money to build herself a house in her village, Jian Gsu. "I can earn enough for that much in Mauritius," she says.

Her friend, Mao Han Yan, adds that overpopulation and unemployment is worsening in their country. "In China, if I get Rs100 (less than four euros) I would have to share it with 50 people. This is not the case in Mauritius." Like most of the other migrant workers, the Chinese women came to Mauritius seeking greener pastures--and finding them.

Foreigners are paid the same wages as Mauritians--a minimum of Rs6,000 per month (about 200 euros). With overtime, they can earn much more. They have their air-tickets paid for by the employers, receive free accommodation and transportation and meal allowances. Leisure facilities are also provided.

However, life is not a bed of roses and there are reports that a great deal of confusion surrounds...

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