Oman’s Ministry of Manpower on Sunday took the unusual step of banning the recruitment of foreign workers in 10 sectors for six months.
The drive is intended to encourage the recruitment of Omanis in the private sector after a Thursday pledge from the government to create 25,000 jobs during the same period.
This came after hundreds of unemployed people demonstrated outside the Ministry of Manpower in Muscat and a similar protest in Salalah last week, according to Reuters. The government previously pledged to create 25,000 jobs in October.
Sunday’s ministerial decree applies to private sector companies in the “information systems, sales, marketing and management sectors, human resources, insurance, information, medical professions, airports, engineering and technical professions”, according to Oman News Agency.
It will not affect work permits issued before the ban or establishments registered with the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development and insured with the Public Authority for Social Insurance.
The ban will take effect from the day of the decree’s publication in the official gazette.
“It is a way to make companies put in more effort to look for Omani professionals as sometimes companies don’t do enough to look for Omanis. This may be due to a bias they have for hiring expat workers,” Fabio Scacciavillani, the chief economist at sovereign fund Oman Investment Fund, told Times of Oman.
“This is a period that is long enough to hire Omanis for whatever positions and after this they can analyse whether they have had the desired effect of this ruling.”
Oman has been among the hardest hit in the Gulf Cooperation Council by the drop in oil prices over the last three years.
Reduced oil revenues led the government to introduce austerity measures in 2017 including new taxes and the halting of hiring in the public sector in order to tackle an OMR3bn ($779.1m) budget deficit.
This year Oman is raising spending from OMR11.7bn to OMR12.5bn ($32.5bn) despite concern from credit agencies.
The government is again projecting a deficit of OMR3bn.