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Times of Oman - 09.12.2015

MUSCAT: Recruitment agencies will no longer be allowed to hire more than 10 expatriate workers on one permit, under a new rule from the Ministry of Manpower.

The agencies, however, will be allowed to apply for permit renewal upon the expiry of the previous permit.

The new edict follows a ministerial decision issued recently by Manpower Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Bakri. Confirming this to the Times of Oman (TOO), a senior ministry official said the rule has already come into effect.

The ministry also issued a decision to extend the ban for another six months on recruiting expats in the professions of camel-keeping, construction and cleaning labourers for private companies.

Since November 2013, there has been a temporary ban in place on visas for construction workers, which is extended every six months. The ban, however, is not applicable to firms, which are rated ‘excellent’ by the ministry, international companies and consultancy firms, and companies executing government projects.

“The ban, which was implemented at the end of 2013, has affected the industry. We know that almost all companies are affected by the shortage of workers. The companies are compelled to undertake desperate measures to overcome worker shortage and complete projects on time,” said Abdul Gafoor, a senior official at a construction company in Muscat.

Tonia Gray, general manager at Competence HR, said that while it is understood that the ministry needs to tightly control the expatriate workforce, this new ruling will make it extremely difficult for many companies to obtain the manpower services they require from manpower agencies.

“This will heavily impact all sectors that rely on manpower or labour, for example construction,” Gray said.

“With plans for continued growth and expansion within Oman (e.g. at new hotels, roads, railway etc.) this new rule will no doubt cause delays in these plans as the necessary workforce will not be available,” Gray added.

“Perhaps some coordination between the Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Transport is planned to overcome the difficulties that lack of labour will cause,” she added. Hiring agencies are worried. “This would seriously hamper our business as we bring in a large number of people on one permit,” said Abu Baker, who runs a recruitment agency in Muscat.

Thasleem Khan, CEO and managing partner of a private firm, however, said this is going to benefit the country. “A large number of firms misuse the visas. I think this was done to keep a check on them,” he said.

“Expansion plans of most of the companies go for a toss whenever the ministry stops issuing visas,” said a senior official of a private company.

He also said that given the current situation, there is definitely a growing demand for more and more people from outside the country.

“But if this demand is not met, there will be a slump in the industry, which may have an adverse impact on some projects,” he added.


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