Muscat: While a host of new restrictions on Oman's expatriate workforce have been welcomed in many quarters, some business leaders in Oman have sounded a note of caution, saying the cumulative effect of the rulings could be negative.
The government is seeking to reduce the expat labour force to 33 per cent and a set of new rules has been introduced, including one that expat workers cannot bring their spouses or children to Oman before six months of service.
Also, hiring expats for the construction sector or as domestic staff has been banned and hiring expat women in many sectors has been restricted.
Arvind Bindra, chief executive officer of Al Maha Ceramics, believes that these restrictions would negatively affect the development of the country in the long run.
If an employee faces restrictions here, he or she will opt to work in another country, Bindra told the Times of Oman. "And when it comes to skilled employees, it means the country would be losing its talented workers."
The 'two-year ban' means that even if there is a highly qualified candidate for a job, that person cannot immediately join the company that wants to hire him or her.
Commenting on restrictions on bringing family members that have been imposed on expatriate workers, he said it is not fair that employees should wait for six months before they can bring their spouse and children. It is also not very easy to find skilled Omanis in the manufacturing sector, Bindra said. "There are good local talents available in the service sector, but not in the manufacturing sector. And training them takes time."
He added that such curbs would have negative effect on the growth in Oman.
"We export a lot to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Lebanon, and other states. If we cannot get the workforce that is qualified to do the job, the country will lose export revenues at the end of the day."
Fazil Kutty, managing director of Al Ajwakh Trading LLC, believes that restrictions on family joining visas are putting extra burden on employees and will tie their hands and affect the performance of workers as well.
Such constraints limit the companies' options, Kutty said, adding that similar rules are less strict in Dubai where much more business is taking place.
"I do not know why these restrictions are set by the government. They are beneficial neither to the employer nor the employee," he added.
Another leading businessman, who asked not to be named, said that he agrees with some of the restrictions but is against some others.
"The two-year ban is very good for the country. I am supporting it because when a company spends time and money providing financial support and training for an employee, it should be ensured that it will reap the benefits of the training."
However, he said that he is against restrictions on the issuance of family visas. "Employees cannot be happy if their families are not staying with them. It affects their performance."
The businessman also said that it is not convenient for the companies either because employees who stay away from their families would tend to apply frequently for leave to visit their families and the companies are not always able to give them the permission.
"They will definitely be more relaxed if their families are here."
On restrictions on the issuance of employment visa for female expatriates, he said that female workers are 'important' and should be part of the labour market in Oman. "You cannot hire only male applicants. Also women are a better fit for some jobs."
However, some kind of restrictions should be there because some companies do not have a good reputation, he added.
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