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Times of Oman - 21.05.2014

Expat women ban – an ethical issue or an Omanisation one?


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Special to Times of Oman

So is the latest news coming from the Ministry of Manpower positive for Oman? Personally I don't think so and you may well be saying to yourself right now 'well of course you wouldn't think so — you are an expat woman'!  But it seems to me that the steps sometimes taken don't actually solve the problem faced.  
Of course, taking steps to ensure that where possible jobs are Omanised, giving the local workforce who have the appropriate skills and experience priority over expats is understandable and indeed laudable and something that other countries should try to follow, but surely if the relevant skills and experience are not available within the national population then the business requiring these skills should be able to take the best person for the job — whether they be male or female.  

The restrictions on issuing labour clearances for females was put in place because of 'a lot of problems that some female expatriates have created' and seems to me to be for a similar reason to the 'no live music' rule imposed recently which surely has an impact on the economy.  

Of course if any expat is acting inappropriately (male or female) and disrespecting the Sultanate's laws and customs, they should be put on the next plane home!   If companies are providing accommodation for their expat workers rather than paying an allowance, then surely it is their responsibility to ensure it is appropriate and within the company's budget to support financially and the Ministry could take an active role in 'policing' this?

Many of the jobs undertaken by expat females are of the type that will not be undertaken by the local population even if the education authorities provide training in these sectors and whilst the ban on issuing the clearance is in place, who is going to do this type of work?

Perhaps it would be a good idea for the Ministry to hold an accurate register of what jobs people are actually doing rather than having a list of job titles that are not relevant to many of the activities carried out by the labour clearance holder?  This would enable a full understanding of where the gaps are and a targeted approach to develop the skills of the nationals to be able to fill these roles going forward.  

Providing more colleges that offer practical training in the skills required would also be a good step.  For example, a college that offers proper full time training in secretarial skills would enable Omanis to gain the skills required to be proficient as a secretary, further adding English lessons within this course would be of added value to both the individual and the company that eventually could employ them.   I see many expats filling roles within offices that within a short period of time and planning could be taken by the many young people who are not working currently. Only one example, there are surely many others.

So my answers in brief, start with educating the youngsters that any job, no matter what it is, is valuable — to them, their families, the population, the economy and therefore the country as a whole.  

Understand exactly what jobs the expats are doing to enable a review of the education and training offered to make it relevant to the skills required to replace expats over time and to support the future of Oman but in the meantime, if an expat is required, recruit the best person for the job no matter whether they are male or female because surely this is right for the business and therefore the economy and country.

Not overnight solutions I know — but you don't get anywhere unless you take the first step and Oman has shown that it can take positive steps to effect change in numerous ways, perhaps it is time to consider another? 

The author is the General Manager of Competence HR in Muscat, having worked in Oman for five years.  She has over 30 years international experience in human resources management and consultancy including specialising in employment law and training and development related matters. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely hers and not of Times of Oman.
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