Muscat: For the first time, there are now more Bangladeshis in Oman than any other nationality, government statistics have revealed.
For decades, Indians have made up the bulk of migrant workers in the Sultanate, but despite police restrictions on the numbers of Bangladeshis allowed to enter Oman, as of November, their numbers had overtaken the Indian migrant numbers.
A Bangladesh Embassy spokesman said their workers were preferred for major projects in the Sultanate while a spokesman for the Indian community here said more Indians were choosing to stay at home as pay and conditions in India are improving.
According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), as of November-end, 2016, the number of Bangladeshis stood at 694,449, with Indians second highest at 691,775 with the number of Pakistani expats standing at 231,685.
In the month of November 2016, the numbers of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis increased by 9,424 and 1,287, respectively, while the number of Indians here dropped by 1,607.
This time last year, there were 590,170 Bangladeshis and 669,882 Indians, according to the NCSI.
Three years ago, in November 2013, Bangladeshis in Oman numbered 496,761 while Indians numbered 600,349.
In a three-year burst, Bangladeshis increased by 197,688 while that of Indians increased by 91,426.
Speaking to the Times of Oman about the growth of Bangladeshi workers in the Sultanate, Zahed Ahmad, counsellor of the labour wing of the Bangladesh Embassy in Muscat, said most Bangladeshis coming to the Sultanate were blue collar workers.
“The Omani sponsors are also very happy with the Bangladeshi workers and this helps us employ more workers,” he added.
A large number of the Bangladeshis who come to Oman earn a salary of around OMR90 to OMR100 a month.
“In this salary range, it is hard to hire people from other countries. It is one reason more Bangladeshis are coming to Oman,” Zahed Ahmad said.
OCCI member Ahmed Al Hooti said Bangladeshis are overtaking Indians in numbers since it is hard to find Indians for small jobs.
“Indians are now looking for mid-level jobs. Bangladeshi workers are filling that gap in the agriculture sector and in small scale industries. So, most of the companies are hiring people from Bangladesh,” he said.
Mohammed Shafiqul Islam Bhuiyan, president of the Bangladesh Social Club, said most of the Bangladeshis coming to the Sultanate work in sectors like construction, agriculture, household and restaurants.
“Efforts by the Bangladesh government to promote migration are adding to the Bangladeshi migrant workers’ number in the Sultanate. Moreover, Oman now needs more manpower for a number of projects. As our people are capable of taking up the responsibility, they are being preferred,” he said.
Dr Sathish Nambiar, the Indian Social Club chairman, said a lot of Indians now prefer to work in India as economic conditions back home are improving. “Besides, salaries are increasing to a level on a par with other countries, and hence, they are migrating less,” he told the Times of Oman.
As per the NCSI data, in contrast to other expatriate workers, those with only preparatory level education are topping the list.
The NCSI’s recent data revealed that 670,750 expatriates out of 1,845,384 only had preparatory level education.
An analysis of this data indicated that expat numbers in case of communities other than Bangladeshis are not rising at the same pace.
For instance, in the last 11 months, the number of Pakistanis coming to Oman has largely remained stable.
In December 2015, the number of Pakistanis stood at 220,112 while the number at the end of November 2016 stood at 231,685.
The other main expat communities in Oman are Ethiopians, Indonesians, Filipinos, Egyptians, Nepalese and Sri Lankans.