The statistics, on the website of the erstwhile Ministry of National Economy, show that the number of Omanis in the private sector stood at 177,716 in December 2010 but dropped to 170,605 by September 2011. In contrast, the number of expatriate workers grew from 955,630 to 1.06mn over the same period.
The statistics come after the government raised the minimum wage for Omanis to RO180 per month, as well as the recent move to shorten the working week to five days, or 45 hours, following the protests earlier this year. Experts believe that many Omanis are opting for government, Royal Oman Police (ROP) and army jobs created in the wake of the unrest, believing these to be more secure.
Margaret Purcell, chief economist at BankMuscat, told Muscat Daily that changes to the labour law aim to place the private sector on a more equal footing with the public sector, which may attract more nationals to private sector companies.
She said, “They seem to have created jobs across the board. I know Omanis who have joined the government in different sectors as economists and accountants, not just in ROP or the military.
“Greater balance that has come through with the labour law is going to help. Everybody is on a five-day week and the hours are clearly specified, so people do not feel they will be working longer if they are in the private sector.
“All this will add up to make the private sector more attractive. They are trying to balance the playing field, but it will take a little time.” However, Dr Abdullah al Zakwani, director of Industrial Innovation Centre, feels the new working-week legislation may force smaller companies to not employ Omanis.
He said, “Not only is there the traditional pull of the public sector as people feel more secure being employed by the government, now there is a new initiative by the government to try to attract Omanis to the private sector in the same way. “A good example is the two-day holiday. Companies are working with very small margins, but now they have to pay double salaries on Thursdays.”
Dr Zakwani added that one possible way of attracting more Omanis into the private sector is by subsidising wages in order for them to gain the experience necessary to push them up the career ladder.