Muscat: More than 55,000 Omanis now work in the country’s construction sector, a senior official at the Ministry of Manpower told the Times of Oman.
The move comes after the government decided to step up its Omanisation plans by reserving certain jobs in the country for nationals, as the country looks to integrate more locals into the private sector workforce.
In addition, a visa ban that placed a hiring freeze across 87 jobs for expat jobseekers has also led to more Omanis entering the private sector workforce.
The ban was first instituted at the end of January 2018, with an initial period of six months, and was then further extended in July.
The total number of Omanis in the construction sector now stands at 57,525 while the number of expats stood at 570,730, according to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) at the end of November 2018.
An official at the Ministry of Manpower told the Times of Oman, “Extending the expat hiring ban in some professions, including some jobs in construction, makes room for Omanis to be hired in the construction sector.”
“The first six-month ban on fresh visas for construction workers and cleaners came into effect in November 2013,” said an official from the Ministry of Manpower.
“The number is going up every year as the government continues to build mega infrastructure projects. Most Omanis were hired in the construction sector as it has lots of job vacancies especially in the engineering, technical and administration fields.”
As part of the Tanfeedh programme for economic diversification, massive construction projects are underway across several sectors that have been earmarked for economic diversification, including agriculture and fisheries, manufacturing, logistics and transportation, mining and energy, and tourism.
Key to these expansion projects are massive undertakings currently underway in Duqm, which is poised to be at the centre of the country’s non-oil future, with Oman looking to wean itself off of traditional fossil-fuel based sources of revenue, such as oil and gas.
“The diversity of investments and investors is key to the establishment of the modern city of Duqm based on the coexistence of all members of society and to meet their needs and requirements through a wide range of services provided in the coming period by the local and global private sectors,” said Yahya bin Said Al Jabri, General Supervisor of the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm.
“Each promotional campaign focused on a specific sector,” added Al Jabri. “In Japan, for example, SEZAD offered to build a Japanese industrial city in Duqm. In Korea, SEZAD discussed cooperation in smart cities. In China, SEZAD sought to attract new industrial companies to work in the Sino-Omani Industrial Park or in any other location in SEZAD. In the United States, SEZAD focused on oil and gas companies. This is in addition to many other topics discussed to achieve SEZAD’s vision to make Duqm a diversified city in its investments and able to keep pace with the desires of its employees in stability and work.”
Although the presence of Omanis was on the rise in the construction sector, Ahmed Al Hooti, member of the Board of Directors and Head of SME development at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said more needed to be done to incorporate nationals into this sector. “Many Omanis shun jobs in the construction sector as they are heavy duty jobs,” he said. “Additionally, the majority of engineering graduates are females, and this makes it harder for them to work in some heavy-duty construction jobs. The Omani national workforce is also more expensive compared to expats.”
Ahmed Al Belushi, an Omani national who works as a foreman at a local construction company, said, “Despite the hardship, I’m happy to work in this sector as it’s a promising sector. I know many Omanis who are working in construction.” The NCSI reports that the unemployment rate for Omanis between the ages of 25 and 29 dropped 13.6 per cent over the last month; by 11 per cent for those between 30 and 34 years, and by 7.1 per cent for locals from 35 to 39 years of age, as companies begin to carry out the national Omanisation policy.
Between October 2017 and 2018, the number of expats in the labour force decreased by 3.4 per cent and currently stands at 1,739,473, down from 1,795,689 in December 2017. The biggest drop was in the construction sector, which decreased by 13.69 per cent in October 2018. The manufacturing (5.2 per cent), engineering (6.8 per cent), industrial (5.9 per cent ), mining (6.47 per cent), agriculture (1.4 per cent), and finance (2.1 per cent) sectors showed a rise in the number of Omanis replacing expat workers.
The six-month ban on hiring expat workers across 87 job roles was imposed on January 28, 2018, to make room for locals within the workforce. The hiring freeze came into effect following the issuance of ministerial decree 2018/38, which was issued by Minister of Manpower Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri. It was then extended in July for another six months.
According to the NCSI, of the 2,041,190 workers in the private sector, only 250,717 are Omani, with the vast majority – 87.72 per cent – being expatriates. More than 40,000 Omanis have been given jobs in private sector companies as part of the government’s Omanisation policy.