Oman’s ministry of labor announced on Sunday, January 24, restrictions on the employment of expatriate workers in certain professions under its policy of “Omanization.” According to the announcement, only Omani citizens will be recruited for specific professions in the country’s private sector.
The list of professions expatriates are barred from range from financial and accounting services to store management and car dealership. The ministry has announced that all the existing visas for expatriates working in these professions will not be renewed once expired.
The decision was reportedly been taken in the face of the slowdown in growth, particularly after the COVID-19 restrictions and growing unemployment. The ministry asked all government-owned companies to employ only Omani citizens, particularly in senior positions, replacing all expatriates in April last year.
The ministry also issued similar orders for several other professions, including teaching. The country’s economy is estimated to have shrunk around 10% last year. Oman, which is the largest non-OPEC oil exporter, is facing difficulties due to reduced demand of oil in the international market which has been compounded by to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government, in order to cope with the impact of the economic slowdown, gave private companies the right to lay off foreign employees until March 2021. According to Oman’s National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI), between September 2019 and September 2020, Oman registered a drop of around 5% in its expatriate population. In September 2019, there were over 2 million foreigners working in the country. In September 2020, the number came down to a little over 1.7 million.
Immigrants consist of around 40-45% of Oman’s total population of around 4.8 million and around 70% of its workforce. Among the foreigners forced to leave Oman last year, Indian and Bangladeshi migrant workers are the most affected.
A large number of expatriates working in the sectors mentioned in Sunday’s order have already left the country in the last one year. According to Times of Oman, quoting the data provided by NCSI, the number of foreign workers in sales and maintenance of motor vehicles in the country alone fell over 14% last year.