Oman reserves new categories of jobs for its own citizens

Foreigners to be barred from working as drivers and several other jobs in private sector

FILE PHOTO: Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (not pictured) at al-Alam palace in Muscat, Oman February 21, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
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Oman will bar foreigners from working as drivers and other jobs in the private sector, under a law announced Sunday.

This is in an effort to create more employment opportunities for its citizens amid an economic downturn.

Foreigners make up about 40 per cent of the sultanate's 4.5 million population.

"A number of jobs in the private sector will be nationalised," the Omani Labour Ministry announced on Twitter.

Under  Article 1 of the new labour law, several jobs, including financial and administrative roles in insurance companies and sales positions in the  new and used vehicle sector, have become restricted to Omanis.

Work as a driver, "no matter what the vehicle", will also be reserved for Omanis, under Article 1.

Article 2 decrees that work permits of foreigners in those professions will not be renewed after their expiry date.

In April 2020, Oman ordered state-owned companies to accelerate the process of replacing foreign staff with citizens, especially in senior positions.

The sultanate's slowing economy and the Covid-19 pandemic have led to 17 per cent of foreign workers  leaving the country since the start of 2020.

Oman now has 1.4 million foreign workers, compared with 1.7 million at the end of 2019.

Data from the sultanate's centre for statistics  showed about 60 per cent of the foreign workers who left Oman had been employed in the construction sector, an area hit hard by the economic slowdown. Most of them were from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Last month, Oman announced plans to introduce a tax for the highest earners, making it the first country in the Arabian Gulf to introduce income tax.

A five per cent valued added tax will also be introduced in the second quarter of next year, following similar moves by the UAE and Saudi Arabia in recent years.

Oman and fellow GCC states Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain have sought to diversify their economies and integrate millions of new graduates into their workforces.

More than 25 million foreigners live in the Gulf, making up the majority of the population in the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.