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Times of Oman - 22.12.2015

MUSCAT: Expatriates aged 50 years or more and working in Oman’s government sector can breathe as officials confirmed the Sultanate would not take any decision similar to a recent decision taken by Kuwait.

Quoting the Kuwaiti Civil Services Commission (CSC) sources, the local media in Kuwait City had reported that the government body has received instructions to terminate the jobs of all expatriate government employees, of all nationalities, aged 50 years and above, effective March 1, 2016. However, a senior official with Royal Oman Police (ROP) said they have not received any such notice from the Omani government or the Manpower Ministry.

According to latest government data, there are 1,682,752 expatriates working in Oman.

Meanwhile, a Majlis Al Shura member said he personally feels that the retirement age should be fixed for both nationals and expatriates in the government and private sectors.

“If we need new and innovative ideas and more productivity, infuse fresh blood. There are many studies globally stating that at the age of 60, a worker will become less productive. So, we should fix the retirement age of workers and the government should plan strategically to face the situation where aged people are relieved from their responsibilities,” Tawfiq Al Lawati, a Shura member, said.

“By saying that expatriates crossing 60 should be sent back doesn’t mean that it’s a move to ban them. We can bring in young expatriates in their place,” the Shura member added.

The Majlis Al Shura member also said no exceptions should be considered while fixing the retirement age. If we start considering exceptions, then the list will become endless,” the Shura member added.

Another Majlis Al Shura member had earlier suggested fixing the retirement age for nationals in order to provide job opportunities to the youngsters.

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

Meanwhile, Gita Krishnan, group finance and administration manager at the Mohd. Al Harthy Group of Companies, said that “Old is Gold,” but definitely all that glitters is not gold.

“Yes, definitely older people have to give way to the younger generation, but in a phased manner. Youngsters have to be groomed under the expertise, exposure and the experiences of the older employees. Then the transition would be smooth and productive,” Krishnan, who is 53 years old, said.

However, Tonia Gray, general manager of Competence HR, said age should not be a factor while determining when anyone should stop working.

“The primary reasons for considering a ‘mature’ person stopping 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,” Gray said.

“The average retirement age now is 65 years for males and 63.5 years for females in 34 countries,” she added.

Meanwhile, another HR official in Muscat said retirees are likely to have up-to-date skill sets and the work experience employers require, yet labour rules in GCC countries restrict their ability to work past retirement and they were forced to end their services.

“In many other industrialized markets, aged 60 and above retirees are also allowed to work part-time without forfeiting their benefits, and under certain conditions. There is certainly a disadvantage that organizations will lose the talent. However, there is also a necessity that employees will be relieved from their services by the age of 60 and welcome new talent in the organization, which will benefit from more focused and skilled resources. But I feel the ban at age of 50 is perhaps not a right move as it shows a demotivation factor by law itself,” the HR official added.

The Kuwaiti government took such a decision following a trend where the number of expat government employees aged 50 years and above were found to be much more than the 20,000 Kuwaiti citizens qualified with university, medium and lesser degrees, who had been unable to find employment and were placed on employment waiting lists.
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