The Maldives is not a member of the International Labor Organisation. Although the national constitution does not explicitly bar the formation of trade unions, they do not exist in the Maldives. This is partly due to the lack of the legal right to stage strikes or engage in collective bargaining processes. Also, most workers are employed outside of the formal sector. In fact, due to the low recognition of workers' rights by the Maldives government, in 1995 the United States temporarily suspended the Maldives' tariff preferences within the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences.
While enrollment at primary schools is very high (98 percent in 1999), secondary school enrollment is only about 50 percent of the relevant age group. This results from having only 2 secondary schools outside of Malé (even though the government spent 17.6 percent of its 1999 budget on education). This not only has the effect of limiting secondary education to the more wealthy tiers of Maldivian society but acts against equal educational opportunities for girls. Girls are considerably more socially restricted in their movement than boys and have fewer employment opportunities. In addition, a recent UNDP survey found that there were only around 250 Maldivians with university degrees. The end result is that professional, skilled, and even semi-skilled workers are lacking in the Maldives. For example, 70 percent of primary and secondary school teachers are foreign workers. The total amount of imported labor grew from 2,000 in 1986 to 18,500 in 1995, which places an additional drain on already sparse foreign exchange reserves .