Job grouping to streamline construction sector

By Samuel Kutty — MUSCAT: Jan. 4: The Ministry of Manpower’s initiative in bringing 62 different job categories under a single nomenclature called ‘construction worker’ will help streamline and regulate the Sultanate’s construction sector, apart from promoting small and medium enterprises (SMEs). “The single nomenclature system will be incorporated into the Ministry of Manpower’s e-system so that ministry inspectors can’t penalise construction firms for assigning multiple jobs listed under the ‘Construction worker’ category to the same labourer,” says Shahswar al Balushi, CEO of Oman Society of Contractors.

The new system also reduces firms’ workforce as multiple jobs can be done by a single worker, he said, adding, all the tender boards have enforced the new job classification system in their tender processes. “A worker brought in as a painter can also work as a plumber or a mason, as all these jobs now come under the construction worker category,” said Shahswar, adding, this will also help reduce the number of expatriate workers, allow companies to efficiently utilise their resources and allow them to be more competitive. Oman’s construction industry is bound to achieve the stipulated Omanisation levels, he told the Observer.

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Shahswar al balushi

“They must start the current year with a 10-12 per cent Omanisation target, which will go up to 15 per cent by 2020. All big firms which have achieved 12 per cent Omanisation are free to hire any number of expatriate employees. But those that have failed to reach the 10 per cent will not be able to access the ministry system to carry out any services.” As far as recruiting Omanis are concerned, the industry must either directly hire the nationals or offer jobs to the final-year graduate students from universities and higher colleges of technology etc., and train them for the job.

“If a company is still short of the Omanisation target after doing all that, it can fill the gap by hiring at the rate of RO 325 per Omani per month until such time it reaches the required target,” he said. The Ministry of Manpower’s e-system can allow or block hiring of expatriate employees based on the degree of Omanisation at the companies, he said. SMEs in the construction sector have two choices in terms of managing the firm. Either the Omani who owns the SME can himself be the manager and run the business, or the SME owner can appoint an Omani manager who will have the authorisation to conduct business.

To sum up, Oman’s construction sector is moving away from number games towards quality and efficiency, in terms of workforce, Shahswar said. These structural changes in the construction sector can have a multiple impact on Omani society as they will bring about a change in people’s mindset towards the private sector. With more opportunities for career and business in the private sector, more Omanis will be attracted to the sector, he said. Also, Omani graduates and youths will realise the importance of acquiring and enhancing professional competencies and skills in getting employment and building successful enterprises. The changes will also considerably reduce labour issues, the CEO added.