Oman has announced a six-month ban on visas for expats working in 10 key sectors in what is being reported as an attempt to get firms to hire more locals.

Employers will not be able to recruit people from overseas in jobs relating to information systems, engineering, aviation, sales, marketing, human resources, media, administration and certain technical professions.

Oman Mosque

The Minister of Manpower, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri, said that the new rules will have immediate effect. He said in a statement that the situation will be reviewed after the six-month period is up.

‘The decision temporarily prohibits hiring of expatriate manpower in private sector establishments for six months. Work permits issued before the date of implementation of this decision are exempted,’ the statement added.

It comes after a period of sustained growth of the expat workforce in Oman. According to official statistics the number of expats has tripled in the last decade. Figures from the National Centre for Statistics and Information show the expat workforce has increased from 660,950 in 2007 to 1,825,603 in 2016.

Recently the Council of Ministers called for more jobs to go to local people. It called for 25,000 jobs in various sectors to be allocated to Omanis. There have been a lot of demonstration by young people claiming they cannot get jobs.

According to Fabio Scacciavillani, chief economist at Oman Investment Fund, the move is part of a strategy to encourage the private sector to hire for these skilled roles from within the country.

‘It is a way to make companies put in more effort to look for Omani professionals as sometimes they don’t do enough to look for Omanis. This may be due to a bias they have for hiring expat workers,’ he said.

‘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. It will also help identify mismatch or gaps in the labour market,’ he added.

Other experts think the ban will be continued after the initial six months as it is not a long enough period to yield results. There are also views being expressed that the ban has been announced so that the Government is seen to be doing something about high unemployment among young graduates in particular.

The ban does not apply to companies owned by employers wholly devoted to management of their establishments which are registered with the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development and insured with the Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI).