(ERGO) – Abdiaziz Issa Daud, a builder in Garowe, blames the loss of his job and his subsequent abandonment by his wife on the influx of foreign workers from India and China into the Somali state of Puntland.
He is grappling with the burden of raising his eight children alone after his wife left them.
“She left because I became jobless and penniless and the people she was getting credit from started asking her for their money, that is what forced her to run away leaving me behind with the children,” he bemoaned. “When I used to go to work, I did not see my children crying because of hunger.”
For 10 years, Abdiaziz had been working in construction, making a decent $20 a day. The family lives in Washington IDP camp on the outskirts of Garowe.
Over the past two years, construction companies in the city have been bringing in skilled workers from overseas. Local people feel they are losing out.
Also aggrieved is Hassan Abdinoor, who worked on building sites for 21 years before finding himself unable to get work recently.
“The lack of construction jobs has affected us badly. We are sitting here idle by the walls of these shops the whole day. These men you see here are all builders, they have families waiting for them at home, but we come here in the morning and leave in the evening empty handed. The construction jobs have been taken by foreigners!” Hassan stated.
Hassan used to make $25 a day but he now finds it hard to feed his family of seven children. He does not see what the foreign workers can do that he cannot do.
“We have the right skills and experience, among us are tilers, builders, and plumbers. We are all sitting here while foreigners are all over the town doing what was ours!” he complained.
According to the human resources director of Iftin construction company, Ali Farah, foreign skilled workers are brought in to raise construction standards to international levels and to satisfy the demands of clients for higher quality modern housing. He said that the foreigners they employ do not do any work that can be done by local workers. They also encourage the transfer of skills to the local workforce.
Iftin currently employs 17 foreigners and 10 locals on permanent contracts. When a project is under construction, they hire more locals on daily wages, such as men like Ali and Hassan.
Iftin started bringing in skilled workers from China and India in 2021, using an overseas recruitment agency. The company pays their travel and visa costs and their living expenses, all as an investment they say in better quality construction.
“The foreigners are quite expensive, we have to take care of their security and health as well as their accommodation,” said Ali Farah.
The local authority declined an interview with Radio Ergo’s reporter on the issue of foreign workers in the city. The overall number of such workers employed in the construction industry and their impact on the labour market is not clear.
However, with the increasingly hard economic times due to the prolonged drought, there has been a slowdown in construction and many local men are resentful that it is harder to find work.
Abdiaziz said his children are now surviving on one meal a day which he gets on credit from a shop in the camp. He is afraid that soon he will be denied more credit due to his growing debt.
“I thought several times of bringing my wife back, but then I dismissed this idea from my mind because of the existence of the problem that chased her away,” he said.