One of Oman’s top officials at the country’s Ministry of Manpower has said that the visa ban that is currently in place to limit expatriate jobs across 87 professions can be extended in the future, depending on the needs of the local job market.
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Salim bin Nasser Al Hadhrami, Director General of Planning and Development at the Manpower Ministry, said the visa ban could be extended further if needed.
“The Ministry of Manpower issued a ministerial decree No. (38/2018) to temporarily suspend the authorisation of a non-Omani labour force in some professions, which included an extension, such as information systems, accounting and finance, sales and marketing, administration, human resources and insurance,” he said.
“The decision to regulate the labour market, provide job opportunities for job seekers in these disciplines, reduce the recruitment of labour force in the country, and the ban for a period of six months can be renewed based on the results of the study and the success in providing job opportunities in these disciplines.”
The six-month ban on hiring expat workers across 87 job roles was imposed on January 28, 2018, to make room for locals within the workforce. The hiring freeze came into effect following the issuance of ministerial decree 2018/38, which was issued by Minister of Manpower Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri. It was then extended in July for another six months.
The decision does not apply to establishments registered with the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development and insured with the Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI).
“The necessary work has been done within the tasks of this ministry and by raising the subject with the competent authorities to take the necessary steps,” added Al Hadhrami.
Shortly after the enforcement of the visa ban, the Ministry of Manpower set off on a campaign to provide 25,000 jobs to young Omanis, which began in February 2018. That objective was achieved before the end of the initial six-month freeze.
“The Ministry of Manpower follows a mechanism for the nomination of job seekers by offering vacant job opportunities in private sector establishments in coordination with the Manpower Registry in the daily newspapers,” explained Al Hadhrami. “The registered job seekers are entitled to apply for these professions.”
“The names of the candidates are published in daily newspapers,” he added.
“The choice lies with private sector establishments to choose the most suitable candidate from the total applicants, and the job seeker has the right to refuse or accept the opportunity and also whether to attend the interview or not.”
More than 40,000 Omanis have been given jobs in private sector companies as part of the government’s Omanisiation policy, but Ahmed Al Hooti, a director at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said skilled Omanis needed to work alongside expats for the moment.
He told the Times of Oman, “I believe there is a problem, which has put more pressure on the Omani economy. With the hiring freeze in these sectors, it’s not only affecting the big businesses but also the small and medium enterprises. As long as there are constrictions, there are impacts on the economy. There should be no constraints in all sectors in an open economy.”
Al Hooti added that competition should exist for a better economy. “There should be no hiring freeze for jobs in Oman, as the competition and open market are needed to build up the economy,” he explained.
Junda Al Balushi, a young jobseeker in the country, said Omanis needed to be given first priority when it came to hiring.
“I have been looking for a job for four months now and I am currently going through my training period,” she said. “I hope the company I am with will give me a job after this. Many of my friends graduated with me and all of us need jobs now, because we have all graduated and need to find work.”
Sunil Kumar, an Indian manager in the country, added that his company would give first preference to Omanis, saying, “The Omanisation levels in all the fields are clear. It may not be to everyone’s liking, but that is the rule we have to follow. I know there are business owners who have been here for a long time, but the reality is that things will keep changing. Nothing is permanent.”
According to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information, the unemployment rate for Omanis between the ages of 25 and 29 dropped by 13.6 per cent over the last month, by 11 per cent for those between 30 and 34 years of age, and by 7.1 per cent for locals from 35 to 39 years of age, as companies have started replacing expats with people from the local workforce.
Between October 2017 and 2018, the number of expats in the labour force decreased by 3.4 per cent and currently stands at 1,739,473, down from 1,795,689 in December 2017.
The biggest drop was in the construction sector, which decreased by 13.69% in October 2018.
The manufacturing (5.2%), engineering (6.8%), industrial (5.9%), mining (6.47%), agriculture (1.4%), and finance (2.1%) sectors showed a rise in the number of Omanis replacing expat workers.
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