By Kevin Stoda
The Oman National Center for Statistics and Information puts out confusing information at times.
This week, the Omani Observer (p.1 on 6 April 2015) reported that the NCSI claims that its recent surveys showed that for those Omanis who are currently employed--in either the government or the private sector-- feel that their jobs are secure ones. The specific claim made was that "87 % feel secured in their current jobs". Of these, more women than men feel secure in their work.
However, many Omani youth do not currently have work. 60% of the women surveyed and 58% of those males surveyed stated that they are uncertain of obtaining a job--i.e. a permanent job.
CURRENT POPULATION OF OMAN
Omanization is "a policy enacted by the government of Oman". aimed at replacing expatriate workers with trained Omani Personnel. The Sultanate of Oman sets quotas for various industries to reach in terms of the percentage of Omani to foreign workers. Companies which reach their government mandated goals are given a 'green card"', meaning they receive press attention and preferential treatment in their dealings with the government. Several Universities have been opened by the Sultanate to train Omani workers."
Currently Omani women make up about 45 or 46 % of the jobs in the government or public sector while only making up about 22 percent in the private sector. The military provides the largest numbers of jobs in the country of any entity but women play less of a role in that sector. The military and government of Oman are putting up a lot of monies now to retrain those leaving the military, i.e. forced to retire at a relatively young age, to obtain gainful employment, too.
On the other hand, the jobs which men get in the public sector are not always great ones, either. I know of many engineers who are simply driving vehicles for the local Diwan or government. This is why slowly the private sector is becoming more appealing for some Omani males.
As part of the process of "Omanisation" described above, currently there are ministerial rules currently on the books forcing companies to hire up to 3 Omani nationals for every foreigner hired or recruited from abroad for particular positions. This leads hotels and other firms in the country to put up with a lot of dead-weight in terms of productivity.
Often far too many Omanis take advantage of the government rules on monopolizing labor contracts to avoid working much more than 2/5 of the time. The Omanis in such private firms, like their counterparts in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE, abuse the system and generosity of the employers by missing a lot of work and failing to contribute their share to the growth of the firm--as well as failing to grasp or exploit efficiency of scale properly in terms of management and service. Likewise, the practice of absenteeism by GCC national in the Middle East today leads to a terrible cycle for those Omanis or other GCC nationals who, otherwise, would be interested in working and growing one's career:"Low job satisfaction and lack of responsibility have been cited by employees as the main reasons for absenteeism", according to several surveys.
This "Omanisation" drive has also demanded more access to labor equality for women in the private sector. A friend of mine who works at McDonald's restaurants in Oman explains, however, that because the Omani government wishes more Omani females to enter the workforce in the private sector, McDonald's has not been permitted to hire any new female employees in the last 2+ years. (McDonald's has also been prohibited from hiring ex-pat females to fill these jobs either.) However, there have hardly been any Omani females applying for a position at McDonald's in the same period. Apparently, working in restaurants has not been a dream apparently of Omani young women these days.
Similar clamp-downs on other laboring efforts of ex-pats in Oman have also made it hard in recent years for construction deadlines to be completed in any timely manner. In Salalah City alone, a major airport project is now over a year behind in construction and opening. A large sports stadiums, which is being quickly put up with a tiny workforce, too, is behind schedule. Many bridges and roads in the city are also expected to be years behind in construction. This lack of infrastructural development is all due to the fact that either (1) many Omanis do not like these heavy jobs or because (2) the Omani ministries have restricted new labor contracts to a trickle over the past few years.
It is astounding that the educational, manpower and vocational industries and ministries of Oman have not yet been connected in a strategic manner which would enable Omanis to learn trades in their teens, i.e. in a way that would enable them to become lifelong learners and leaders in developing their own land.
Germany and Central European countries showed the world already in the 19th Century that it was possible to train young people to have excellence in school and pride in work at the same time while trying to play political-economic catch-up with the rest of the globe. Soon Japan followed suit in both the late 19th & 20th Century. Finally, China has done the same. In short, collectivist societies can take charge of their own destinies better than many GCC countries have.
The Sultan of Oman has just returned from a long visit to Germany. Hopefully, he will encourage Oman to take a wider but more integrated view to development and lifelong learning over the next decade as his German counterparts did centuries ago. Things, however, need to be shaken up. The high-absence rate in both work and school for Omanis must come to an end. New leaders in all corners of society and ministries must be lifted up and encouraged to change the status quo, so that more Omanis can truly have a place in the Oman economy of the future.