Oman extends ban on expat visas

Private companies in 10 sectors are barred from hiring foreigners for another six months

A Royal seal sits on the entrance gates to the Al Alam Palace, a royal residence of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, in Muscat, Oman, on Sunday, May 6, 2018. Being the Switzerland of the Gulf served the country well over the decades, helping the sultanate survive, thrive and make it a key conduit for trade and diplomacy in the turbulent Middle East. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
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Oman has extended a ban on hiring expatriates by another six months to create more job opportunities for Omani nationals, the Ministry of Manpower said on Sunday.

The ministry on January 28 announced a six-month ban on the hiring of foreigners in 10 industries including media, information technology, marketing, insurance and aviation, affecting 87 types of jobs.

However, the ban does not apply to the replacement of existing foreign employees in the private sector, the ministry said.

The extended freeze on hiring expatriates “would give private companies more time to create vacancies for Omanis who are out of work”, the ministry said.

Expatriates make up than more 70 per cent of workers in the private sector. According to the official statistics, there are about 1.8 million foreigners working in the country.

The Omani government said last October that would begin creating 25,000 new jobs from December in an effort to reduce high unemployment. The government said 60 per cent of the new jobs would be in the public sector, while private sector companies would be provided with incentives to hire nationals instead of expatriates.


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“It makes sense that the government is pushing for a bigger percentage of Omanisation in the private sector. Most of these jobs currently occupied by expatriates can be taken by Omanis. The nationals are willing to take up these jobs but the private sector must take the initiatives,” said Salim Al Rawahi, a manpower consultant.

However, other job experts say that some companies are reluctant to take on more Omanis.

“It is true that the private companies are not serious in the implementation of the Omanisation process. This is actually working against the efforts of the Ministry of Manpower to recruit more Omanis in the private sector. It is time directors of private companies complement the government’s efforts in the drive to replace expatriates,” said Harith Al Maimani, another manpower consultant.

The government faces no such problem in the public sector. Omanis make up more than 90 per cent of employees in the civil service.

However, the public sector pays better than the private sector and some recruiters in private companies use that as an excuse, saying they cannot match those salaries to attract Omanis.

“It is not a good excuse to say that the civil service pays better and that is the reason why the private sector cannot compete,” Mr Maimani said.