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Times of Oman - 04.03.2015

Muscat: Expatriates working past the age of 60, and their status under the Sultanate's labour laws, are in the sights of the Majlis Al Shura.

Fixing the retirement age at 60 for expat workers is a consideration, said a member from Majlis Al Shura, while another said that allowing employees to work after crossing the age threshold should be stopped to create more opportunities for job aspirants.

We will consider fixing the retirement age for expatriates at 60 while making the new labour law. However, a detailed study will be required to know the needs of the market and both advantages and disadvantages of the new move," Ahmed Al Busaidi, member of youth committee in Majlis Al Shura, told Times of Oman.

"Renewing job contract for expatriates who have crossed the age of 60 should be stopped. By this opportunities for job aspirants can be created in the market. Exception should be given only to special cases if the service of the employee is irreplaceable," Said Al Maqbali, a Shura member, said.

The present labour law is silent on the retirement age. However, while discussing the termination clauses, the law says that the contract shall not be terminated from the part of the employer unless the worker reaches the age of 60 at least.

Job seekers
Meanwhile, an official from the Ministry of Manpower said that renewal is happening only because the employer is satisfied with the employee who has crossed the age of 60 and requests to continue service.

"By allowing expatriates who are above 60 to continue their work in Oman can be seen as a crime towards the job aspirants. Why don't they quit the job at the age of 60? They are stealing the opportunity of job seekers," Ali Al Moqaimi, a private sector employee, said. A job aspirant also sounded the same opinion.

"I am looking for a job. But I have been told by the employers that there are no vacancies. At the same time, they are keeping [workers] who have even crossed the age of 63 and 64 in the company. I agree and respect their experience. But until we don't get a chance to work, how can we gain experience," Fawaz Al Farsi, a job aspirant, said.

Age is not a factor
However, Tonia Gray, general manager of Competence HR, said that age should not be a factor in determining when anyone should stop working.
"The primary reasons for considering that a 'mature' person should stop work would be if they are suffering from ill health preventing them from undertaking their responsibilities or if they are unable to keep up with the times — for example, changes in technology. The mature generation has a lot to offer to an employer, primarily due to their extensive experience and knowledge which cannot be replaced by employing a fresher," the general manager said.

She also added that companies should be planning for the future retirement of their key post holders and developing someone to take their place but this takes time and planning and, "in my experience, succession planning is not something that is formalised within most companies here".

"The average retirement age now is 65 years for males and 63.5 years for females for the 34 countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and countries like the UK are working towards a retirement age of 70 years," she added.

According to The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW's) Economic Insight: Middle East Q1 2015 report, the GCC countries generally have a lower prevalence of youth unemployment than other countries in the region.
 
However, the report adds that ever mounting pressures from lower oil receipts will erode this ability over time. 

At the end of January, while there were 1,273,327 expatriates working in the private sector the number of Omanis (insured) is 198,700.

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