JobHouse Ghana writes about the relationship between Ghanaian workers and their Indian or Chinese bosses.
That’s not all; a lot of employees who have worked with Indian companies or Indian-led companies in Ghana have reported of gross disrespect and “sub-human” treatment. I remember one situation where we urgently needed to fill a vacancy for a company and when we finally got a suitably qualified candidate, he inquired whether his new boss would be an Indian. When we confirmed, he turned down the offer. He told us he preferred to be home and go hungry than work with another Indian boss again. That he was regularly insulted by his boss and other Indians in his previous job. That “those Indians don’t respect we Ghanaians as human beings. They will even insult you, treat you anyhow”.
Let’s get some facts. The minimum wage in Ghana effective January 2017 is GHC8.80. To be fair, Indians/Indian-led companies in Ghana do pay above the minimum wage. As to whether their typical wages to Ghanaians are living wages is another issue. Secondly, most Indian-led firms in Ghana tend to operate in the manufacturing, FMCG, IT and Service sectors. Some of these industries have had some challenges over the past few years. On the other hand, most of the Chinese companies in Ghana operate in the construction sector. And construction has been on the rise in the past few years. End of facts.
Now some perspectives. In 2016, the recruitment and outsourcing unit of JobHouse Ghana (JobHouse Recruitment Agency) dealt with over 150 organizations. Notable among them CEMTEC (main contractors of newly constructed CMAF cement plant in Tema), Uber Ghana, StarTimes, CIMA Ghana, E-Crime Bureau, Odebrecht Eng & Construction, and a host of government and non-governmental organizations. We have dealt with construction companies, manufacturing companies, companies in IT and services sector, and recruited from entry level to director levels. The only exception is domestic services (which we don’t currently cover).
In our dealings with all these organizations from different sectors of the economy, there is always that striking difference when we have a recruitment request or outsourcing request from Indian-led companies;
They are always in a great hurry
They propose the least salary ranges (and eventually pay the least after placement)
Their requests always come with all kinds of conditions
The staff who place the request most often than not, demand to speak with a higher authority or try to schedule a meeting (which must take place in their office) before giving further details.
On the other hand, Chinese companies in Ghana tend to propose relatively higher salaries (40-100% more). The only main drawback is that, Chinese and Korean bosses tend to tend to work every single day. They typically use the same premises as office and residence and they tend to forget that other staff who work with them need to close on time and go home. Despite that downside, the feedback from some of our placed candidates over the years is that, Chinese companies operating in Ghana tend to treat their Ghanaian workers better than their Indian counterparts. For example, a driver to a Chinese executive often gets to eat lunch sponsored by his boss when he takes the boss for lunch. This kind of situation is not likely to happen with an Indian boss.
So why do Indian bosses in Ghana treat their workers (especially the lower level) shabbily whilst their Chinese counterpart and Asian neighbor do far better? The team at JobHouse decided to dig further and this is what we found:
All these “low salaries” and “inhumane” treatment we found out, could be attributed to the Indian Caste System. The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. The main castes were further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation.
How does caste system work?
For centuries, caste dictated almost every aspect of Hindu religious and social life, with each group occupying a specific place in this complex hierarchy.
Rural communities were long arranged on the basis of castes – the upper and lower castes almost always lived in segregated colonies, the water wells were not shared, Brahmins would not accept food or drink from the Shudras, and one could marry only within one’s caste.
Traditionally, the system bestowed many privileges on the upper castes while sanctioning repression of the lower castes by privileged groups. Now pause!
From our desk research into why many Indians in Ghana treat their low-level staff with “disrespect” and pay them “low salaries”, we find a strong correlation between how Indians treat other Indians back home who are from the lower castes. It is more of a cultural or superstitious thing. Indians from the “upper caste” just feel they cannot mingle with or accord the same level of respect to “lower castes”. Coincidentally, the lower castes are often found doing lower-end jobs, the odd jobs, the cleaning jobs, the factory-hand jobs etc. Therefore, when a Ghanaian is found in low-level jobs, his Indian boss sees him/her as lower caste. This in our opinion, explains why most Indian-led companies in Ghana seem to be grossly disrespecting and even abusing the poor Ghanaians who work for them. If you are in supervisory or mid-level upwards in an Indian company in Ghana, you will hardly get shabby treatment from your Indian boss. But if you are in low level, your Indian boss might unwittingly treat you as lower caste even if he/she does not mean to treat you with disrespect.
Indian-led companies operating in Ghana need to understand that people found in lower levels at the workplace should not be equated to lower castes. In Ghana (and Africa), the caste system does not exist and one’s “class” does not pre-determine the kind of occupation one is born into. Therefore cleaners, drivers, factory hands, handymen, cooks, etc need to be treated with the same level of respect as others.
Ghanaians who find themselves in Indian-led companies also need to understand that the Indian Caste system predates modern history and have been in practice for hundreds of years. Even though the caste system has been abolished in 1947 by the Indian government, its practice is still rife, though not with state support. Practices like these could take centuries to finally eradicate. The average Indian you meet in Ghana is most likely to hail from the upper caste. Therefore, his behaviour will be that of someone from upper caste.
The labour department and the ministry of labour also need to put in place programmes to reach out to the Indian community in Ghana about the cultural differences. They Indian community needs to be sensitized that people in lower end jobs are not equivalent to lower castes. That in Ghana, all must be treated with respect whether lower or higher levels in the workplace.
This article is based on our experiences at the recruitment and outsourcing unit at JobHouse Ghana. It is not based on any research with primary data collection before arriving at a conclusion. The views of this article should therefore not be used as a basis for generalizations or to brand a particular group of people. We also like to assure our all our clients (including Indian-led companies) that this article does not seek to portray any Indian-led company in a bad manner. It only seeks to educate the Ghanaian public.