Muscat: Everyone living in Oman can have their say on employment issues, thanks to a Ministry of Manpower online initiative.
The portal, developed by the Ministry of Manpower, aims to bridge the gap between members of the community and decision makers.
“Share Your Thoughts” was launched in 2017 and is open to all. People can register, put up a suggestion, which can then be voted on and discussed by others.
“This gives everyone a chance to be a part of the decisions that affect them,” said Safiya Al Rashdi, Development and Evaluation Performance Director at the Ministry of Manpower.
“The electronic portal was designed to implement the ministry’s vision of uniting the government, employers, and workers in the decision-making process in light of the growing number of private sector workers.”
The top five most interactive ideas were abolishing the NOC, setting a standard for the gradual replacement of expatriates, a unified system for the employment of job seekers, adding new degrees to technical colleges, and allowing graduate students to teach each other over the weekend.
Some 94 per cent of all the people voted in favour of the idea to either cancel the NOC permanently or at least drop it after an expat completes two years with his/her sponsor.
The ministry has already begun implementing a number of suggestions that appeared on the portal, added Al Rashdi, with one of them being the wage protection system.
“The ministry is currently working on the implementation of the wage protection system in order to protect the rights of all parties and to improve the accounting profession in the private sector. There have also been suggestions to develop the ministry’s electronic systems,” Al Rashdi said.
The idea is then voted on by the community. The most popular and constructive idea will be discussed with decision makers. In a year, the ministry received 70 proposals either manually or electronically.
“On the page, individuals can choose from a number of options such as suggesting an idea or even sharing their thoughts on a pending decision by the ministry,” she added. “The person that suggested the idea will be contacted to explain his/her proposal to the decision makers within one month from the submission.”
“The community’s interaction with the service has been a positive one, where the number of visitors to the page amounted to more than 6,000, while the total votes stood at more than 4,408,” Al Rashdi said
According to the ministry, from January 1, 2017, to August 13, 2018, female users accounted for 38.2 per cent of all users, compared to 61.8 per cent of male users. Additionally, 45 per cent of all users were between 25 and 34 years of age.
“Work is underway to establish a mechanism for honouring the participants who contributed to the development of a service or aided in organising the labour market; the award will be part of the annual Ministry of Manpower’s Innovation Award,” added Al Rashdi.
Ratheesh Kalembath, Convener of the Indian Social Club’s Kerala Wing in Muscat, was also in favour of having such a system.
“Normally, whatever complaints we get, we try to bring to the embassy, and we try to solve them with its help,” he told Times of Oman. “There is an open house held during the third week of every month and we ask people who have complaints to present these during the open house in front of the ambassador, the embassy and embassy officials. We follow up with the embassy and then try to get them resolved.”
“Regarding this portal, it is a good idea because this is a direct communication line now, but there may be some blue collar workers in the labour force who may not get a chance or the facility to express the views on their problems, but otherwise it is a good move on the part of the government,” added Kalembath.
“Some of the major concerns we get are the delay or non-payment of salaries, overstaying, maybe sponsors are not available or are not renewing the labour card and visa, maybe sometimes these expats are unable to go back home, so then they become absconding labourers.”
“We take these issues to the embassy during the open forums where we present these in front of the ambassador,” he added. “The new envoy was also present at the open forum and once they have aired this, if necessary, we take it to the Ministry of Manpower.”