Omanis now competing for expat roles

Energy Saturday 25/May/2019 21:20 PM
By: Times News Service
Muscat: As part of the government’s Omanisation plan, Omanis have begun filling roles traditionally reserved for expat workers.

Nearly 55,000 expatriates who previously worked in Oman as engineers, mechanics and technicians have been removed by companies in a single year, up to March, 2019, new government data shows.
Almost 6,000 Omanis have been recruited to fill these positions, and more are expected to be hired in future. The move is part of the national strategy to replace foreign workers with skilled locals from the country’s labour pool, as the government continues its Omanisation drive.
Data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information shows that there were 758,929 expats working in principal and auxiliary engineering professions in the private sector as of March 2019, down from 813,599 expats in 2018 and 838,802 in 2017, a difference of 54,670 engineers over the past year.
The number of Omanis working in these positions in the private sector increased from 52,275 in 2017 to 55,731 in 2018, and finally to 58,452 in 2019, NCSI data shows.
While some expatriate engineers have left their jobs because they’ve found employment elsewhere, others needed to find alternate employment or return to their home countries as trained, competent Omanis are hired to fill those roles.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower told Times of Oman: “Generally speaking, this designation is an umbrella term for occupations where the worker operates, maintains, or designs construction, industry, or technical work.”
According to a list of occupations by the ministry, the designation includes 468 occupations, including equipment operators and mechanics, engineers, architects, and carpenters. Ahmed Al Hooti, board member of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Times of Oman that the changes are due to a number of factors, especially engineering jobs.
“There are two reasons for architect jobs switching to Omanis, and this is because architects work under professional offices, which have to have more Omanis,” he explained. “This allows local talent to open their own offices and manage their own work. As for contractors, the Ministry of Manpower has recently placed a visa ban on engineers working for contractors because there are Omanis trained for these occupations,” he added. However, the current state of the economy plays a big part in the number of expats leaving these jobs in Oman, according to Al Hooti.
“Another important reason is that there is a decrease in the number of projects, and so companies are more willing to let go of professionals,” he added. “Since the economy is forcing companies to take less work, there is less work for expats in these jobs in Oman.”
He added that firms in Oman have become more willing to hire Omanis.
“There are some jobs nowadays where if the company has a chance of hiring an Omani, it would do so before thinking of hiring an expat because all in all, the expat would cost you more to hire,” Al Hooti explained. “These aren’t the most common jobs, but they exist.”
Al Hooti also said that if Omani jobseekers were willing to take an “employment opportunity with a competitive salary compared to expats, then Omanis would be able to compete for jobs better.” He added, “This is what we’re seeing currently. There is a direction where Omanis are willing to compete for jobs with expats even if the salary is a little lower than they’d like.”
A financial analyst working in the country said such nationalisation plans were intended to benefit the economy in the long-term by employing skilled local labour and easing the country off of expat workers. “For a long time now, overseas migrants have been integral to not just the development of the Omani economy and infrastructure, working hand-in-hand with the local work forces to identify and fill in the gaps present, while simultaneously training local work forces to take over these jobs in future,” he explained.
“But now, there is a pursuing of the policies of Omanisation, so that their locals can get gainful jobs,” he added. “The private sector provides many opportunities for locals to learn and improve their skill sets as well as promote growth and development. As this happens, we can expect the number of other migrant workers to these countries to drop, which is what has been happening over the past few years.”