Muscat: If Omani youngsters feel getting a job is their birthright, they must think again. They will have to earn their jobs every step of the way, starting from within the four walls of their schools all the way to the job market. Sometimes, even this attitude is not enough to land them a good position. Graduates also have to demonstrate willingness and the right attitude to keep a job in this increasingly competitive job market.
With the government working hard to create employment opportunities (106,000 jobs for Omanis over the course of 2012 and 2013), logic dictates that the state will not be able to guarantee jobs in the long run. More than 40,000 young jobseekers enter the market every year. They are fresh graduates and school-leavers with no experience. With the private sector seeming reluctant to spend money on training, many of them will struggle to land a job.
The civil -service jobs will soon reach a saturation point, and graduates will need to take any available positions. Some 600 Omanis leave low-grade jobs in the private sector to join the government every month. But for how long will the government be able to afford absorbing thousands of job seekers every year?
In the mid-1990s, the government made a landmark decision to offload thousands of ministry workers when the civil service reached its saturation point. The state decided to offer a unique package of early retirement for civil servants who had completed 10 years of service. The majority of workers who took the early-retirement package were in their late 30s and had at least 20 years of active service left. The move had two objectives: for the early government retirees to move to the private sector to balance the expatriate–Omani employment scale and to reduce the government's salary burden by trimming its workforce. This scheme worked like magic for nearly two decades.
As we entered the second decade of the 21st century, because of the expansion stagnation in the private sector, the government was forced to reverse the strategy by offering thousands of jobs in the civil service. What has really gone wrong in the last 20 years?
Schools of thought
There are two schools of thought. The first holds the belief that the private sector failed to heed the call to share the employment burden of the nationals. The other possi-bility is that Omanis generally believe that a plum job awaits them when they graduate, or worse, when they foolishly decide to drop out of school.
Whether we believe the first or the second, it all boils down to Omani youngsters, who believe they were born with the right to hold a particular job. When it became obvious that Omanis needed to change their attitudes about jobs and they were actually starting to do something about it, the state mobilised its welfare system to open the employment floodgates. However, this action should not take the private sector off the hook. Trends don't last indefinitely, and we will see it settling down in a year or two.
If we can accept that job creation for nationals is not their birthright in the face of all these challenges, then the private sector should not believe that their government contracts are a gift from God. The board of directors of private companies, so accustomed to fattening their purses, now need to change their attitudes for good.
They need to share the wealth and give some of it back to the community. At the same time, young Omanis must stop believing that they are born with silver spoons in their mouths. Until this happens, we will be stuck in an unsatisfactory triangle between the generous state welfare, the stingy private sector, and the poor attitude of our youngsters.