Implications of Recent Expat Visa Ban Extension in on Employment Market in Oman

The Ministry of Manpower extends the expat visa ban for companies working in construction and cleaning sectors.

Ministerial Decision 200/2019 included a “freeze on permits for expat workers in private sector institutions which engage in construction and cleaning work,” and exempts companies with more than 100 workers, as well as SMEs that are properly registered at the Public Authority for SME development and the Public Authority for Social Insurance.

“These decisions are positive for regulating the labour market. If you want to focus on your business, become a full-time business owner through Riyada and PASI (Public Authority for Social Insurance),” he told Times of Oman. “In that case, you will be able to have the expat workers that you want, and at the same time will help organise the labour market.

“We hope that the decision was designed to help the labour market, in which case we stand fully behind it. Some activities are very employee-heavy, which means that when there are too many of these businesses, they negatively affect the chances of Omanis getting a job,” he added.

“Today, you’ll find that a large segment of employees in Oman are in some sectors, including these two. This step [by the ministry] can help alleviate the pressure of a surplus of workers in the market, an example of which is the construction centre, where some projects have already stopped and some companies are not finding enough projects. There is no need for even more companies flooding the market with a supply of employees,” he added.

Labour market

A spokesman from the Ministry said, “This decision came to regulate the labour market and to lower the number of expatriate workers in relation to Omani workers, especially since there is a large number of companies working in this sector.

“The renewal of the decision is to stop the rise of expat workers, which can contribute to the increase of hidden trade.”

The decision excludes “companies with more than 100 workers, companies that execute government projects, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that are registered at the Public Authority for SME development, and those that are registered at the Public Authority for Social Insurance, as well as enterprises that are registered as multi-nationals and operate in industrial free trade zones.”

Regarding the exclusion of companies with more than 100 employees, Al Hooti added, “We don’t actually have a problem with companies that have more than 100 employees. These companies are large enough that they work in an organised and professional manner in terms of hiring and firing. The problem is with companies that are small and not registered with Riyada or the Public Authority for Social Insurance.”

This ministry’s ban will last for six months, and excludes SMEs registered at Riyada and PASI and companies with more than 100 employees.

The decision also cancels out decision 338/2014, which froze expat work permits for this sector but included different exceptions.

In addition, a financial analyst who had experience in both Oman and the other GCC countries had said that given that all of the six nations were promoting policies of national employment, Oman’s new visa ban extension was designed to provide more opportunities to young job seekers in the nation.

“Expat 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,” he explained.

“There has been a long history of expats in countries such as Oman and the United Arab Emirates, where they are now a very valued part of the local community. They have worked across multiple fields, including medicine, education, scientific research, finance, banking and so many others, as well as doing many blue-collar jobs in the construction, logistics, transportation and service sector industries.”

However, he added: “However, as these countries are now pursuing policies of Omanisation and other nationalisation programmes, we can expect the number of migrant workers to these countries to drop, which is what has been happening over the past few years.”

According to the National Centre of Statistics and Information’s Statistical Report for April, the number of expat workers in the construction sector has decreased by 9.2% between February and March of 2019, decreasing from 559,911 employees to 557,425 employees. This is more than a quarter of all 1.7 million expats currently employed in Oman.

 

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