Not so long ago, there was the concept of slavery. People belonged to their “masters”. They were caught, herded onto a ship, and brought to a place to work the land, usually. Then, after people became a bit more humane, slavery was “abolished” and these people were called labourers. The “masters” became the owners of the business and the bosses. They paid ridiculous wages and reaped all the profits, and worse, they elected one of the labourers themselves as Sirdars, to watch over and whip their brother labourers back to work. Labourers in Mauritius worked the land, worked as sugarcane cutters, pruned tea leaves and cut down Ebony tree forests.
Then machines were invented and there was the Industrial Revolution. The labourers became machine attendants. They worked in the Export Processing Zone or EPZ sector, which consisted mainly of textile and manufacturing products meant for export. The wages were a bit higher, and the labourers now worked indoors in factories. They got lunch breaks and worked eight hours a day, and even got paid overtime. They chose to work overtime to earn more money, to save towards a better life, maybe to buy that colour TV or that washing machine.The Sirdars were replaced by the Supervisors, who carefully supervised the output of each factory worker to make sure it met the standard.
With the EPZ and the agricultural sector, the economy developed and money started to circulate into the country and out of the country. With time and popular political decisions from the ruling parties on working conditions and minimum wage level, the Mauritian wage and standard of living started to improve. Factory workers had to be imported from poorer countries to stay competitive. Banks started mushrooming everywhere. Somebody got the great idea to copy the Channel and Cayman islands and develop Mauritius as a financial jurisdiction. The slaves / indentured labourers turned factory workers turned into clerks working in the various financial institutions, while their friends less versed towards Finance worked in the more and more luxurious hotels burgeoning around the coasts of the island. They started earning even higher wages as the banks started competing with each other to reap the bigger talents, and tourists brought their foreign currency into the island. Nobody wanted to work in factories, or in the fields anymore.
With the opening up of the Mauritian economy, and the growing affordability of all sorts of satellite tv channels, the wants of the Mauritian got bigger and bigger. The Mauritian is a typical consumerist, wants-to-do-better-than-his-neighbour, mostly hardworking animal. Banks started giving out more and more loans, hire purchase companies made a fortune out of interest and the Mauritian went on collecting and collecting gadgets to add to his Mauritian dream lifestyle. To succeed was usually symbolic to owning more than one house, preferably one in the highlands, and one on the coast. Overtime became the norm and both the mother and father of the typical nuclear family would be working hard to climb the social ladder steps, while their children were herded into private tuitions so they could “achieve” even more. Either that or they watched Disney channel and MTV and rebelled against society because they thought they should be living the same kind of life as what they saw on TV. With the pressure from their peers, their children and the ever evolving Mauritian economy, the Mauritian would slave away at work for years and years, consoling themselves with the carrot of performance bonus at the end of the year while always fearing the consequences of the fatal stick of being fired. For without this great job in this small office of this great institution, they would not be able to afford the luxuries they got so much accustomed to, and this would really be the ultimate low. So they slave away for 10 hours a day with the comfort of knowing that a handsome pension would be waiting for them when they turn 60… wait 65 now. Whether they would be in a good enough shape to enjoy those millions at that age is another question altogether. With the increase in wages and the busier and busier lifestyles, fastfood became the norm and fastfood in Mauritius consists in a haphazard briani of western and eastern cuisine, or the Mauritian variation of it, which tastes yummy, granted, but which can be said to be the cause of diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol, the most common life-taking diseases in the small island. Some of them try to practise sports, but most of them end up promising to practise that jogging or swimming or football or finally entering into that expensive gym only once their doctor orders them to AFTER that stroke.
Oh and the Sirdars became the Managers, and the Managers became the Senior Managers, Department Heads, and CEOs, while the owners… well the owners remained the owners…