Oman is studying the possibility of switching to a four-day working week, giving the country a three-day weekend.
Salem Al Busaidi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour, told Oman newspaper that the ministry may look at the benefits of the move.
Any change would have to be approved by both the Shura and State Consultative Council.
“Oman, if the rule is approved to be a new law, will join many countries around the world which have already implemented a four working day system or are considering to do it,” the government-run Oman Television reported.
Belgium, Iceland and Sharjah in the UAE are among the early adopters of four-day working. In Sharjah, the public sector and all schools work to a four-day week, while it is optional for the private sector.
Omanis welcomed the news, saying that it would give them more time to spend with their families.
“I work two hours away from my home and I see very little of my family during the working week. If this law is implemented, then I will see more of my family,” Rashid Al Naimi, a civil servant who commutes into Muscat, told The National.
The owner of a business close to the UAE border said a three-day weekend law would lead to closer integration with Oman's neighbour.
“My business, which is located in the border town of Buraimi, will get a huge boost. The UAE is already working in a four-day routine per week,” said Khamis Al Shikeili, who runs a building materials workshop.
“If Oman passes the decision, we will have the same working week like them and this will boost trade between our two countries.”
Expatriates who work in Oman also welcomed the news.
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“I really hope and pray the law will be passed as soon as possible,” Jyoti Lalbuksh, a teacher, told The National.
“My husband is working in Dubai and I am employed here in Muscat as a teacher.
“The weekend matching between Oman and the UAE will be brilliant and I can have more time with my husband during the weekend.”
The UAE became the first country in the world to implement a 4.5-day working week for public sector employees on January 1 last year.
Numerous schools, private companies and banks in the UAE have adopted the shorter working week.
Sharjah's public sector switched to a four-day working week at the same time.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, employees and jobseekers are increasingly requesting to work from home on at least two days a week, in addition to asking for flexible hours and training opportunities, recruitment company Robert Half said in its 2022 salary guide.
Worries over productivity
The push to enforce a four-day working week has gathered pace around the world.
But not all welcomed the anticipated shorter working week in the sultanate.
Last week, Sultan Haitham approved 11.35 billion rials ($28.34 billion) in spending for 2023, down 6.4 per cent from last year. The projected revenue of 10.05 billion rials is estimated to be 5 per cent less than in 2022.
Many Omanis are worried that a shorter working week will stall an economic recovery. Oman's public debt has been projected to stand at 18.6 billion rials at the end of this year, compared to a forecast of 17.7 billion rials of debt at the end of 2022, it said.
“Academically speaking, the short working week will put a strain on our syllabus,” said Dr Davai Raghavesh of the National University based in Muscat.
“That means we have only four days to teach. We have to stretch the teaching hours well in the evening to make up. That means longer days for both students and teacher.”
Entrepreneur Salem Al Hashemi tweeted his concerns on promoting a shorter work week.
“Those of us who work in the public sector, we need an extra day to overcome the losses and the current market conditions. As for sleeping three days a week, it is very difficult,” he wrote.
Higher productivity levels, reduced fatigue and greater overall well-being are some of the benefits reported by workers who took part in the UK’s largest trial of a four-day work week in 2022.