An estimated 16,670 expatriates left the Sultanate in April this year – a figure that is set to balloon as the socioeconomic impact of the downturn – unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic as well as low international oil prices – becomes more apparent in the coming months.
According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the total size of the expatriate population (workers and their families) in the Sultanate dwindled to around 1,920K in April 2020, down from 1,937K a month earlier.
While ongoing Omanisation efforts have partly contributed to this outcome, there is little doubt that the economic slowdown that began with falling oil prices and later exacerbated by the pandemic is primarily to blame. It is widely known that shuttering retail, hospitality, leisure and automotive businesses, among other segments of the economy, have had to lay off sizable numbers of expatriate workers over the last two months.
Since the start of the year, there has been a steady decline in the size of the expatriate workforce in the Sultanate. From a high of 1,712K at the end of 2019, the number dipped to 1,672K in January, slipping further to 1,662K to February before settling at 1,645K in March. Over the 12 months to April 2020, the decline is around 6.9 per cent, according to the Centre’s latest bulletin.
Of the total 1,645K expatriates residing in the Sultanate (as of April 2020), the vast majority (1,307K) were employed by the private sector, while around 53,000 were in the service of the government. Around 284K comprised dependents and family members.
Significantly, Bangladeshis were the largest group by nationality among expatriates in the Sultanate, numbering around 607K in April 2020, down from 630K at the end of last year. Indians totalled around 590K, down from 617K last year. Other key nationalities include: Pakistanis 200K; Filipinos 48K; Egyptians 34K; Sri Lankans 22K, Ugandans 16K, Nepalese 16K; and Tanzanians 15K.
The construction sector, which employed an estimated 490K expatriates at the end of 2019, recorded a 14 decline in the size of its workforce over the 12 months to April 2020. The farming and fisheries sector too saw expatriate numbers nearly halve to around 40K in April this year, down from 60K at the end of last year.
Other occupational groups that reported modest reductions in expatriate numbers over the April 2019 – April 2020 period include: Administration / Directors / Managers (-7.6 per cent), Specialists (-9.3 per cent), Technicians (–12.7 per cent), Clerical (-18.9 per cent), Industrial and Food Industries (-7.1 per cent), and Engineering (-10.6 per cent).