Muscat: Even as Oman is facing severe manpower shortage due to the ongoing temporary ban on visas for construction workers, a new rule from the Ministry of Manpower has made it even more difficult for companies to hire expatriate workers.
As per the new rule, recruitment agencies will no longer be allowed to hire more than 10 expatriate workers on one permit. Upon expiry of the previous permit, the recruitment agencies will need to apply for renewal before they can go on hiring more people.
The new edict follows a ministerial decision issued recently by Manpower Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Bakri.
According to a Times of Oman report, a senior ministry official said the rule has already come into effect issuing a decision to extend the ban for another six months on recruiting expats in the professions of camel-keeping, construction and cleaning labourers for private companies.
Since November 2013, Oman has banned visas for construction workers. This ban is extended every six months.
There are few exceptions for international companies, consultancy firms, companies executing government projects and firms which have been are rated ‘excellent’ the ministry.
Due to the ongoing ban on the visas for construction workers, almost all companies have been affected by the shortage of workers.
“The companies are compelled to undertake desperate measures to overcome worker shortage and complete projects on time,” Times of Oman quoted Abdul Gafoor as saying. He is a senior official at a construction company in Muscat.
Tonia Gray, general manager at Competence HR, said that while it is understood that the ministry needs to tightly control the expatriate workforce, this new ruling will make it extremely difficult for many companies to obtain the manpower services they require from manpower agencies.
“This will heavily impact all sectors that rely on manpower or labour, for example construction,” Gray said.
“With plans for continued growth and expansion within Oman (e.g. at new hotels, roads, railway etc.) this new rule will no doubt cause delays in these plans as the necessary workforce will not be available,” Gray added. “Perhaps some coordination between the Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Transport is planned to overcome the difficulties that lack of labour will cause,” she added.
In Oman, the fate of at least 55,000 expatriate workers hangs in balance after calls for a fresh rethink of the Sultanate’s visa system for expat workers was fuelled by the CEO of the Oman Society of Contractors (OSC).
“Challenging conditions in the construction sector, made worse by the global price of oil, meant that businesses needed more flexibility to employ expatriate contractors, including easy transfer of employment visas inside Oman, and less demanding Omanisation targets,” Shahswar Al Balushi said. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of OSC.
“Out of the 200,000 Omanis working in the private sector, 26 per cent are in the construction sector. If the current conditions prevail, they will be losing their jobs,” He added.