Working in the Maldives



Regarded as the smallest Asian country in terms of land area and population, Maldives is known for its rich marine environment and location in strategic shipping routes. It was once one of the 20 poorest nations in the world, but now, this archipelago of 1,192 stunning tropical islands possesses a middle-income economy with per capita income of USD 15,287.

Maldives’ economy has always been reliant on the fishing sector considering that is mostly composed of the territorial sea than land. This country boasts an abundance of marine resources which also helped boost its nature-based tourism industry. Today, the national income of the Maldives doesn’t only come from fishing activities but also from the thousands of tourists who want to witness this nation’s outstanding natural beauty. However, the 2008-09 global financial crises hit Maldives and left the economy in a vulnerable position. Experts from the World Bank stated that proper management of this archipelago’s complex ecosystems and natural resources could significantly improve the local economy and thus, provide more employment to the locals and expats alike.

The Maldivian Job Market

More than half of the Maldivian population is working in the Services sector, measured at 73%. It is followed by the Industry sector at 23% and the Agriculture sector at 4%. Maldivian locals and foreign nationals who are seeking employment can find opportunities in the major industries which include tourism, fish processing and shipping. Other industries that can also offer job positions are boat building, coconut processing, woven mats, rope, handicrafts, coral and sand mining.

Since tourism plays a huge role in the economy of Maldives, English is widely spoken in the country, although the official language is Maldivian or Dhivehi. As such, foreign nationals will not have such a difficult time communicating with the locals. However, it is still best to learn a little of the Dhivehi or two more languages to gain an additional 50% chance of landing a job in the tourism sector.

Average Salary and Income Tax

The Maldives currently doesn’t have a policy on national minimum wage, and in April 2015, around 5,300 out of the 11,430 employees under the multi-billion dollar tourism sector signed a petition that demanded a minimum wage of USD 600 for resort workers. According to the vice president of the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM), only 3-7% of the overall tourism revenue goes to the salary of the employees and currently, a worker in this sector only has an average monthly salary of USD 250.

At present, Maldives does not impose an income tax on salaries earned by all workers in the country. However, a bill is currently under committee discussions which if passed, will impose taxes on income based on a progressive scale – from 0% to 15%.

Work Conditions

The standard work week in Maldives is 48 hours per week or eight hours a day, Sundays to Thursdays. Friday and, to a lesser extent, Saturday, are the rest days for employees. All workers are entitled to nine public holidays, which includes:

  • The Day Maldives Embraced Islam – January 1
  • First Day of Ramadan – May 27
  • Eid-ul Fitr – June 25
  • Independence Day – July 26
  • Eid-ul Al'haa – September 1
  • Hajj Day – September 2
  • Victory Day – November 3
  • Republic Day – November 11
  • Day of Commemoration of the Birth of Prophet Mohamed- December 1

Meanwhile, paid annual leave and paid sick leave are given to all workers who have completed one year of employment – each having thirty days. Since the country’s main religion is Islam, several shops close during prayer time. This is common during Fridays, as well as Ramadan and Eid celebrations.

Dress Code and Greeting Etiquette

Most businesses and transactions in the Maldives take place during the morning whereas appointments or meetings should be set in advance. Dress code in this country depends on where you work, but since the island has a tropical, warm climate, men usually wear short-sleeved shirts with a tie and formal but lightweight pants while women wear dresses or lightweight smart casual attires.

Generally speaking, the locals of Maldives are known for being accommodating and warm especially to those who treat them as equals and with respect. When meeting for the first time, a handshake is the most common greeting accompanied by saying ‘Assalaam Alaikum’, an Arabic expression which means ‘Peace be upon you’. Though a handshake is common among men, expats in Maldives should remember that a majority of the population are Muslims whereas men and women do not engage in physical contact. A slight bow of the head is enough when being introduced to a woman unless she extends her hand first.

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Expat Services in Maldives