Expat population on the wane in Oman

MUSCAT: The expatriate population in the Sultanate continues to fall amid government’s push for giving preference to nationals in private sector jobs. According to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the number of foreign workers fell by 18,311 or 1.5 per cent just in four months. At the end of April 2018, the number of expatriate employees stood at 1,836,569 against 1,854,880 in December 2017.
Of this, 2.2 per cent fall was reported from the private sector and two per cent from different government departments.

At the same time, Bangladeshi nationals continue to form the major chunk of the expatriate population with 682,702 workers in April this year showing a 3.2-per cent fall. In December 2017, the number stood at 692,164. Indians, who occupy the second slot, also registered a fall of 1.6 per cent to reach 678,696 from 688,226 during the same period. The number of Pakistanis stands at 229,378 from 234,163 in December 2017, showing a drop of 3.1 per cent. Filipinos increased by 10.3 per cent to 46,106 workers from 45,063 in December 2017.

According to experts, the drop in the population is not just because of the Omanisation programme unveiled by the government. “The escalating cost of living coupled with cut in incentives by employers as a result of fall in company revenues have forced many expatriates to fly back home,” said Jose Chacko, a financial expert. Absence of new major projects to sustain them in jobs is another reason, he opined. According to him, the increase in the number of foreign nationals leaving the country comes after years of growth in the expatriate population.

Although in the 2010 census, only 29 per cent of the population was made up of expatriates, the number gradually rose to 45 per cent in the years that followed. “True, some expatriates have been replaced by nationals in certain jobs, but many, especially Indians, are leaving Oman thanks to availability of opportunities back in their home countries,” said Jose. Hameed Hussain, a Bangladeshi scholar, said that many nationals left Oman for non-renewal of their contracts and visas.
“Several of them were brought by sub-contractors. On completion of the projects, the workers have been sent back. Similarly, hundreds were deported after being caught by the officials as they were on the so-called free visa,” he said.
According to the NCSI data, Al Wusta Governorate registered the maximum drop of 7.2 per cent fall in the expat population followed by Musandam with 5.4 per cent.
The Muscat Governorate which has highest number of foreign nationals working in both public and private sectors witnessed a fall of only 2.4 per cent during the period.
There are currently 805,639 expats in Muscat compared to 815,867 at the end of December last year.

SAMUEL KUTTY