Approaching the Job Market in Oman and GCC in 2018


It is no secret that the recession within GCC economies fueled by declining oil prices has taken longer than anticipated.  In fact, a large segment of economists as well as energy experts believe that the possibility of oil prices going back to 2014 levels is very much equivalent to that of spotting a polar bear in the Arabian Sahara.  This means the region has to prepare for an era of a new economic parameters.  The region needs to rely mostly on creativity, global competitiveness, peak performance and, more importantly, attracting the best talents.


As part of our periodic assessment of Oman and GCC employment market and given our continuous interaction with all sorts of employers we have a few tips on how job seekers in Oman and GCC should approach the job market in order to strive during 2018 and beyond.


Here we go:


  1. There are more jobs than you think

There are jobs and vacancies every day regardless of what you hear about companies downsizing and laying off.  Our experience in reveals that except for the government, banking, oil and gas and construction sectors, the rest of the market is still hiring at varying pace.  The expat population in Oman grew by 1.15% between the period of 1/1/2017 to 11/9/2017.  The growth figure is impressive considering the common impression that Oman is firing expats.


  1. An old sector is dead, long live a new sector

Banks, construction, oil and gas and, of course, government sectors will have limited or no HR requirements for years to come.  Banks, for instance, are serious about automating everything that could be automated.  Construction companies are also aware that the market has to consolidate and absorb the additional capacity that has been added since the boom in 2004.  Government entities are also aware that increasing salary expenditures is the main trigger for rating agencies to lower sovereign rating.  Oil and gas companies have already started to replace costly HR with affordable HR.  Even telecom companies are not expected to contribute much to the employment market due to a) market saturation and b) introduction of new technologies that require less dependence on human.



  1. Less of office jobs and more of field jobs

Customer service representatives, receptionists, secretaries and PROs are jobs that are likely to disappear in less than a decade.  I remember asking a CEO of a major investment company the reason for not having a secretary of his own for which he replied “why would I need one when I have this” and he pointed to his desktop.  The role of a PRO is getting eroded with more online facilities offered by major governmental service entities.  Hologram receptionist is on its way to replace grumpy as well as friendly human receptionists.


On the other hand, businesses are concerned about improving sales and containing expenses.  Good salespersons are always welcome even in the midst of economic slowdown.  Factories and industrial establishments have also embarked on plans to enhance export and lower dependence on local markets.  Therefore, they need to identify and hire highly skilled technical staff to run the show and compete on the global arena.


  1. Being national does not bring you closer to the job anymore

The government did its best to promote nationalization of most jobs and the private sector was happy to take part.  Major private establishments remain on the lookout for qualified Omanis who are eager to grow in the private sector.  However, this might not be the case as companies need to survive.  The tradeoff is simple, hiring nationals and achieving the nationalization ratio or hiring the best calibers regardless of their nationality to survive during this tough time.


Additionally, despite the ban imposed by the authorities on so many professions to be occupied by expats but it is evident that everyone is going around the rules.  The most basic method of averting nationalization quota is to hire nationals just to obtain work permit for expats.  Other complicated form would include tweaking job titles of an expat to appear to the authority that this particular expat is doing a job so complicated and cannot be performed by a local!


If you are a national looking for a job my advice to you is play it rough, very rough.  Accept the competition and develop the attitude as well as the skills to give you a competitive advantage over the rest.


  1. You get rewarded for doing the right thing not for not doing the wrong thing

In the past the key performance measures within most commercial entities in Oman and across the gulf had depended on the loyalty and the amount of mistakes committed.  In other words, if you wanted to survive just stick around and never change jobs and make no mistakes at all.  Obviously, the best way to avoid making mistakes is to just sit there and do absolutely nothing!


This paradigm has shifted under the influence of tougher economy.  Businesspeople, especially old school, finally realized that if you are looking for someone who is loyal and make little or no mistakes you might as well hire a nice German shepherd.  Market conditions and very extreme and to survive you need to employ the best people out there.


  1. The market is open to new sources of expats

We now receive inquiries for professionals from East Europe, Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world that have historically had low presence in the Gulf job market.  This is part of the quest to remain competitive by looking for the best resources available and not for what the market is used to having.


  1. Business owners are shrewder today than they were three years ago

Business owners nowadays are more geared towards taking business matters in their own hand as opposed to hands-off policy applied decades ago.  Our interaction with owners of our client companies reveals that they are very much aware of their business HR requirements.  They are very particular about the sort of calibers they want to employ.  They simply want the best talent available and the cost has become a secondary issue.

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