Omanisation bears fruits: Major steps to ensure more job opportunities
Oman witnessed recently major steps being taken to ensure more job opportunities for Omanis. The most important of them has been the raising of the minimum monthly wages to 325 rials and the aim of this step has been to encourage the youth to take up jobs in the private sector. Other steps are also being taken with the same goal in mind. This even includes restricting the total number of foreigners in the country to 33 per cent. Steps to regulate the labour market will also be taken, said Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Bakri, Minister of Manpower, while addressing members of the Shura Council on Monday, the 4th of February.
The issue that the government and the public sector in general cannot provide jobs for all the youth has been stressed again and again in the last few months. There is a limit to what the government can do in this regard. Hence, a lot of this responsibility falls on the private sector which has given unbridled freedom and has received a lot of encouragement from the government. In fact, the reach of private sector today is enormous.
It is well-established in every sector of business and industry and its resources are virtually unlimited. And the scope for it to expand further is unlimited. Considering such endless encouragement from the government, it also has duties towards the nation to fulfill. Primary among them is to provide jobs to the youth, thousands of whom are graduating every year from the numerous schools, colleges, universities and technical institutions all over the country.
Just giving jobs is not enough. Attractive salaries and perks must accompany the jobs, which the government has been stressing repeatedly. Many firms are following the instructions of the government. But some are still lagging behind. It’s time they too must fall in line and ensure that Omanis will gradually replace the foreign workforce on which the country cannot depend on forever.
For a considerable number of years Sultan Qaboos has been stressing on the well-being of the people. The programme of Omanisation was adopted long ago, in accordance with His Majesty the Sultan’s directives, for the welfare of the people. Omanisation has yielded results. But they are not enough. More needs to be done as the Sultanate is developing at a fast pace. All kinds of industries are coming up all over the country. Sohar and Duqm are examples. Soon other industrial areas willspring up in other parts of the country. Many of these industries will be in the private sector and the job opportunities will be immense. Instead of expatriates, the government wants Omani youth to fill these vacancies and work loyally and diligently.
Since the public sector cannot employ all the citizens, the private sector has been sharing this responsibility. In fact, many private firms have been doing everything possible to hire Omanis by improving their salaries and perks. In normal circumstances, this should have yielded dividends for the country. But according to Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Bakri, Minister of Manpower, this is not happening. In a statement on Sunday to the Shura Council, which is hosting him, Bakri said that the Omanisation drive in the private sector faces many challenges. He added that the government’s efforts to provide job opportunities to citizens are being wasted as the results are not encouraging. Explaining further, he said that statistics showed that though 410,796 Omanis were employed in the private sector between 2006-2011, 205,284 – almost 50 per cent – have left voluntarily or were dismissed.
This trend continued in 2012 because of the preference for jobs in the public sector. The low wages, fewer opportunities for career advancement, difficulty in adjusting to the work environment and poor English language skills are other reasons for the high rate of attrition. These conclusions from studies conducted by the Ministry of Manpower and the Public Authority for Social Insurance are alarming as they go against the very aims the government wants to achieve through its Omanisation programme.
Omanisation was given a major thrust in 2011 when His Majesty the Sultan ordered the employment of 50,000 Omanis in the private and public sectors. Subsequently, other government directives ordered jobs for Omanis. This year’s budget has stipulated the employment of 56,000 nationals. But the reality that must be understood is that since the public sector cannot employ them all, the private sector must hire them. Citizens in particular must understand the reality that in no country does the government give employment to all its citizens.