Expat Numbers Plunge in Oman Due to Omanisation

Published February 27th, 2019 - 08:50 GMT
Expatriate numbers in Oman make up only 43.7 percent of the total population. (Shutterstock)
Expatriate numbers in Oman make up only 43.7 percent of the total population. (Shutterstock)

Expatriate numbers in Oman make up only 43.7 per cent of the total population, the lowest they have been since July 2015.

According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, as of February 25, 2019, there were 2,040,274 expats in the Sultanate, which accounts for 43.7 per cent of the country’s total population.

This is the lowest the expat population percentage has been since July 2015, when expats made up 43.6 per cent of Oman’s population.

On the same date (February 25) in 2018, it stood at 45.1 per cent, having dropped from 45.9 per cent in 2017. It was also 45.1 per cent on the same date in 2016.

And with Oman looking to only step up its Omanisation plans in the future, Ramanuj Venkatesh, a financial analyst working in the country, has said that expats living in the country will need to get used to this fact. “Overseas migrants have been integral to not just the development of the Omani economy and infrastructure, but the rest of the GCC countries as well, working hand-in-hand with the local work forces in these countries to identify and fill in the gaps present, while simultaneously training local work forces to take over these jobs in the future,” said Venkatesh, who has experience across both the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“There has been a long history of expatriate workers in countries such as Oman and the United Arab Emirates, where they are now a very valued part of the local community.”

He added, “Foreign workers have been employed across multiple fields, including medicine, education, scientific research, finance, banking and so many others, as well as many blue-collar jobs in the construction, logistics, transportation and service sector industries. However, as these countries are now pursuing policies of Omanisation and other nationalisation programmes, we can expect the number of Indian and other migrant workers in these countries to drop, which is what has been happening over the past few years.”

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Indian nationals account for 36.9 per cent of all expat workers in Oman, followed by Bangladeshi nationals at 36.8 per cent.

The number of Indians, Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in the Sultanate all dropped by 4.1 per cent, 4.8 per cent, and 7.3 per cent, respectively, compared to the same period last year.

But with Oman also looking to expand its economy under the Tanfeedh programme for economic diversification, PK Subudhi, the general manager for Mustafa Sultan Exchange, says there will be certain specialised jobs for Oman in the future.

In addition, Oman’s high Quality of Life Ranking in the Expat Insider 2018 survey shows that expats still rate the Sultanate as a good place to work. Oman was ranked third across the GCC nations, with only the UAE and Bahrain finishing above Oman, with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait trailing the Sultanate.

“The reason so many expats are leaving Oman is because the government realises that it needs to give jobs to its own people, and this is what any country must do, so expats here cannot complain about this,” explained Subudhi.

“It is the same in the other GCC countries as well, so any expat who is trying to find a job, in say, for example, the UAE or Qatar will also find it difficult, so they are better off going back to their home countries and finding work there.”

“A big concern for many of the foreign workers here will be how they will be able to support their families back home, because they are able to send a rather good amount of remittances back to their families, and if they are unable to get that amount of money, then things at home could be difficult. But despite this, I don’t think this will put people off, because you have many developments happening in places such as Duqm and Salalah, and they will need expats who have those specialised skills to train Omanis, so there will always be a place for them.”

According to Oman’s Labour Law issued by the Sultanate’s Ministry of Manpower, Article 11 states that employers shall employ Omani workers to the maximum possible extent.

The ratio of Omanis to foreigners in the various economic sectors or the activities covered by each sector as may be necessitated by the circumstances of each sector or activity and the extent of availability of necessary Omani workers, shall be determined by the decision of the minister.

The employer shall ensure the equality of all workers when the nature and conditions of their work are similar. Article 18 adds that employers are prohibited from bringing forward non-Omani workers unless they have obtained a permit from the Ministry of Manpower, which is provided when employers have proved that there are not enough Omanis to handle the work in question, or when the employer has complied with the prescribed percentages of Omanisation, in addition to the payment of determined fees.

Nilambari Gokhale and KC Das of the Middle East Institute added, “The Omanisation plan strives to reduce the country’s dependence on expatriate manpower by substituting Omani nationals for foreign labour. Positions currently held by expatriate workers could be easily occupied by Omani nationals. Firms that request new permits for expatriate workers are required to prepare an Omanisation plan that lays out how they intend to achieve the relevant industry targets.This policy consists of using an overall ceiling on the influx of expatriate workers and allocating work permits to employers in such a way so as to meet the overall ceiling.”

© Muscat Media Group

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