Muscat: As the nation’s economy becomes more diverse, it is causing changes to the demographics of expatriates in Oman, according to those in the business community and social workers.
“Since the government has shifted its focus to non-hydrocarbon revenues, as part of its move to diversify its economy, there has been a surge in construction activities in Oman. This is one of the main reasons that is causing changes to expatriate demographics,” Ali Mohamed Taqi Abdul Reza, chairman of Njamat Al Fujra Trading and Construction, said.
When compared to the situation a few years back, an increase in the number of Bangladeshis coming to Oman can be seen, even as Indians remain the largest number of expats.
According to National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) data, in November 2013 the number of Bangladeshi in Oman was 496,761, by November2015 they had risen to 572,340.
Meanwhile, the number of Indians in November 2013 was 600,349, while in November 2015 they had reached 659,576.
“Now, Indians come to Oman looking only for above mid-level jobs. Educated Indians are not migrating to perform low-paid jobs. It is Bangladeshi workers who are filling that gap,” Ali Mohamed added.
An official from the ministry also confirmed that the number of Bangladeshis coming to Oman is high, when compared to Indians.
The NCSI data notes that in contrast to other expatriate workers, those with only preparatory level educations are topping the list.
The NCSI’s recent data reveals that almost 33 per cent,or 613,147 expatriates out of 1,906,040, have completed only preparatory level education.
While in November2013the number was only 537,969 out of 1,520,714 total workers, in November 2014 the number rose to 566,607,and the total number of workers were 1,558,452.
And in November 2015, the number again rose to 620, 206,with the total number of workers being 1,682,752.
“India is now in a better economic condition. Workers receive salaries in the same range as salaries being offered in their home country. So, they are migrating less often. This is one reason that we changed our focus to Bangladesh to recruit workers,” Shahswar G Al Balushi, CEO, Oman Society of Contractors, told Times of Oman.
“Moreover, other than certificate holders, workers need skills. Skilled workers to build Oman are in demand. So, this may be the reason that workers with preparatory level educations are coming more often,” Shahswar added.
Meanwhile, an Omani union leader said the merging of the needs of Oman and Bangladesh are the two main factors in the changes in expat demographics.
“Currently, Oman needs workers who can build more infrastructure. So, this may be the reason that more and more Bangladeshis are coming to Oman. Moreover, as Bangladesh’s economy is now more dependent upon remittances from migrants, they are promoting migration,” said Mohammed Khaldi, a board member of the General Federation of Oman Trade Union.
Meanwhile, the president of the Bangladesh social club said that as Bangladesh has realised the potential of migration and its benefits for its economy, there are more concentrated efforts to promote migration.
“Bangladeshi migrant workers have sent home $15.31 billion in remittances in fiscal 2015. It is not only the highest in the country’s history, but also it contributes to 15 per cent of the GDP. The country is benefiting from remittances and, moreover, the lives of those who are migrating are changing in a positive way,” said Mohammed Shafiqul Islam Bhuiyan, president of the Bangladesh Social Club Muscat.
“Efforts from the Bangladesh government to promote migration is resulting in the increase of Bangladeshi migrant workers. And, moreover, Oman now needs more manpower for these projects. As Bangla people are capable to take up the responsibilities, they are being preferred more,” Shafiqul added.
Additionally, a Bangladeshi social worker in Oman said that poverty and unemployment are causing higher levels of migration to Bangladesh.
“Poverty and unemployment are pushing migration to higher levels in Bangladesh. Oman is considered to be a preferred migrant receiver country. So, Bangladeshis prefer to migrate to Oman,” Mohammed Sanaullah, a Bangladeshi social worker, said.
Recently, Nurul Islam, Bangladesh’s minster of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, told Times of Oman that the government is sending 3,000 workers as migrants to different parts of the world every day.
Talking about the rise in the numbers of expat workers, Sanaullah said that the increase in the number of construction works needed in Oman is the main reason behind the surge in arriving Bangladeshis.
“The boom in the construction sector all over Oman is resulting in the increase in the number of Bangladeshis coming to the country,” Sanaullah added.
There are currently 641,032 expatriate workers in the construction sector, topping the list of different job categories in Oman.
Shaji Sebastin, an Indian social worker who has been a resident of Oman for the last three decades, said that Indians are now arriving in search of mid- and senior-level positions.
“The days they used to come for construction work have gone. The majority of them are coming as skilled workers. Moreover, the situation in India has changed a lot. For skilled workers, there are jobs available back in India itself and, moreover, the payment is also good. So, this may be the reason why there is not a huge migration happening from India,” Shaji added.
While analysing the NCSI data, it indicates that the numbers from other communities coming to Oman are not increasing at the levels of the Bangladeshis and Indians.
For instance, from November 2013 until November 2015, the number of Pakistanis coming to Oman has not changed significantly.
For in November 2013,the number of Pakistanis stood at 223,422, while in November 2014 there was a decrease to 215,909, and in November 2015 the numbers remained at 215,909.
Also, the number of Ethiopian workers have decreased, as in 2013 there were 44,838, in 2014 they fell to 35,692 and in 2015 there were 24,796.
Further, since 2013, Oman has put tight controls on the recruitment of Ethiopian housemaids.
Also, even though there has been an increase in the number of Indonesians coming to Oman since 2013, the 2015 data shows that there are only 33,651 Indonesians working in Oman.
In 2013, the number of Indonesians in Oman was 28,548, and by 2014 it had declined to 35,738.
Additionally, since March 1, 2015 the employment of Indonesian domestic workers in Oman has been suspended.
However, the number of Filipinos in Oman is increasing, reaching 33,964 in November2015, while in2013 it was 28,447 and in 2014 it was 30,933.
The other expat communities in Oman are Egyptians, Nepalese and Sri Lankans, totaling some 70,000.