April issue 2010
Interview: Maath Albermawy
“One Pakistani is equal to three people of other nationalities in his work output”
– Maath Albermawy, HR Recruitment Expert
Q: How did you start this business of exporting manpower?
A: Initially, I started out with an Arabic food restaurant. There, I developed friendships with the Saudi consulate people, and I thought that the best way to do business is to use your Arab and Pakistani connections and make your fortune. My father had his company, but some years ago I decided to set up my own, and the venture has been extremely successful.
Q: How can you export manpower from Pakistan in such testing times?
A: One Pakistani is equal to three people of other nationalities in his work output, and that is the reason why Pakistani manpower is welcomed in emerging and growing economies. There is a quota system in the Middle East and Gulf. Companies in Saudi Arabia, for example, reserve 40% quota for Pakistani manpower. Pakistani manpower is the most highly paid in the Gulf and Middle East.
Q: Describe the working conditions of the companies that hire your manpower.
A: The working conditions vary from country to country. For example, the UAE does not allow a company to hire offshore manpower unless the inspector of labour gives his approval. Then, no company will provide family status to 1,000 masons, for instance. How many compounds can the companies build for their lower staff? It would not be feasible for them.
Machines are going to take over the work of the labour class soon. We’ve seen a drop in the export of Pakistani manpower compared to the ’70s. So more skills are needed to be better employed.
Q: How did the economic depression hit countries like Pakistan?
A: A lot of people came back from Dubai after the recent economic crisis. But those who had some savings found employment in other areas and seem to be doing really well. The economy is normalising again. These are natural bumps but human beings can absorb such shocks.
Q: How do reconstruction opportunities in Afghanistan and Iraq figure in your matrix of manpower export from Pakistan?
A: The prospects for manpower export there would be enormous in the years to come but, at the moment, the government of Pakistan does not allow us to hire manpower for these countries. Some offshore companies are doing it, but personally I don’t believe in risking people’s lives by offering them exorbitant salaries. If the government does not allow certain kinds of export to me as a license holder, I would wait for it to change its decision instead of seeking back doors. The labour markets in Afghanistan and Pakistan are waiting to be explored and would offer enormous opportunities for hard-working people from this region.
Q: Has the post 9/11 situation affected manpower export from Muslim countries, especially Pakistan which neighbours Afghanistan?
A: The Middle Eastern and Gulf situation has not changed significantly, but many American and European companies prefer Indian companies and labour while manpower here is more hardworking, resilient and intelligent.
With the new demands for non-religious or non-Muslim manpower, we have started exporting non-Muslim manpower such as Christians and Hindus from Pakistan. We are sending non-Muslim manpower everywhere, and that has become a new avenue for us. The West’s bias against Muslims is providing opportunities for Pakistan’s religious minorities.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I love this business and I hope to expand it and explore new markets. I am exploring new markets for labour in agriculture as there is so much demand for that in Europe, and I am soon going to give good news to Pakistan.
My father is still doing business, but he deals in very experienced and high-end manpower from his office in Islamabad.
Related Article: Bridging Borders