DESPERATE to wriggle out of marauding poverty and a biting economic climate, a number of Zimbabweans are flooding European states and the Americas to take up cruise ship jobs.
A cruise ship is a large vessel that stops at different ports and carries passengers travelling for pleasure. The ships operate in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Russia, Egypt, China and Southeast Asia.
Some of the leading cruise ship companies recruiting include Princess Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Noble Caledonia and Fred Olsen.
Lack of requirements of specific academic qualifications has made the jobs accessible for Zimbabweans. Required are people who work as bartenders, laundry attendants, beauticians, security personnel and child care attendants.
For one to work in a cruise ship they must be at least 18 years old, meet the language fluency requirements, have a valid passport, a basic safety training certificate and pass a medical examination.
However, cruise ships in the United States and the United Kingdom have jobs that require qualified professionals like dieticians, health professionals and information technology specialists.
The health sector is suffering from this recent development as nurses and doctors are seeking higher paying jobs on these ships.
Europe is a preferred destination for health professionals, a development, which has left a number of public hospitals with low staffing levels.
On average, nurses on cruise ships earn around US$76 283 per year, translating to US$6 356 per month.
Better salaries are attracting Zimbabweans who have been leaving the country to take up these jobs despite the fact that cruise ship crew life can be intense as it is punctuated by long working hours, no days off for months, demanding guests, small living quarters and little-to-no privacy.
Bartenders earn between U$2 200 and US$3 600 per month depending on the cruise line, ship size and passengers’ gratuities.
Housekeepers and cabin stewards which are entry-level ship jobs where no experience is required earn between U$1 800 and U$2 200 a month, gratuities included.
These housekeepers and stewards may be aided by assistants who earn between U$1 200 and U$1 500 a month. Housekeepers in Zimbabwe do not earn in excess of US$100.
Thembelani Nkomo from Harare, who has since relocated to the United Kingdom, said he had to leave his family for greener pastures.
“A friend of mine gave me more than 10 websites of cruise ship recruitment agencies which I studied over a few days. I then applied for the post of caregiver since I have a red cross certificate and I got the job. The money is way better than what I was getting in Zimbabwe but the only challenge is we travel for months. The job is hectic,” Nkomo told the Zimbabwe Independent.”
Tafadzwa Mabika, who works for the same cruise ship company, noted that his life had changed for the better.
The mass exodus of Zimbabweans in search of greener pastures abroad is testament of a crumbling socioeconomic and political situation.
Figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) show that the annual inflation rate reached 191% in June, which was a renewed blow to the purchasing power of most workers.
“With the continued escalation of prices of goods and services, living in Zimbabwe is no longer for the poor. How does one survive on an RTGS salary when all basic goods and services are priced exorbitantly in US dollars? It’s not a surprise that people are leaving en masse to do anything and everything as long as it pays them well,” analyst Jethro Makumbe said.