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Small labour market causes increase in job-seekers
Dr Rahma al Mahrouqiyah
Dr Rahma al Mahrouqiyah

The increase in the numbers of job-seekers is not only due to the quality of higher education, rather due to small labour market and lack of opportunities.

This was stated by Dr Rahma bint Ibrahim al Mahrouqiyah, Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, when Majlis Ash'shura hosted her on Wednesday.

The Majlis discussed the ministry's statement during the fourteenth regular session of the second annual sitting of the ninth period.

Speaking on the occasion, she said: “The results of the 2019 survey showed that higher education outcomes suffer from weakness in possessing some skills of the 21st century, and consequently, lack of access to job opportunities indicating that the small size of the Omani labour market, poor orientation to investment in the knowledge-based economy sector, and failure to activate modern technologies, all led to lack of growth in demand for skilled Omani labour, and rather continued demand for unskilled labour which does not require any university degree."

According to the statement, the number of male and female graduates from higher education institutions reached 23,816 during the academic year (2019-2020), of which females constituted 60 per cent.

However, studies of higher education graduate surveys carried out by the ministry since 2015 showed that female employment rate is lower than male’s as female employment rate was 8.8 per cent, while the male employment rate was 39.5 per cent, according to graduates survey 2019.

The percentage of Omanisation among academic staff during the 10th Five-Year Plan increased by 1.2 per cent.


On the reasons for lack of alignment of outputs with the labour market, the minister said: “Surveys were conducted to determine specialisations the market needs, and accordingly, they were identified. But, unfortunately, the information we received from the labour market is inaccurate. So, we spoke to Omani Investment Authority, which includes 170 companies, to explore the future of the required specialisations."

The number of higher education institutions in the Sultanate during the current academic year (2020/2021) stood at 47. Nineteen among them are government institutions, 28 private, in addition to 416 private vocational training institutions supervised by the ministry and distributed over various governorates of the Sultanate, according to the statement.

Moreover, the number of students enrolled in higher education in the Sultanate and abroad stood at 29,619 during the academic year 2019-2020, distributed in public and private institutions and missions abroad.

The data indicate that 65,457 students, equivalent to 50.5 per cent, study in government institutions, 55,827 students (43.1 per cent) in private institutions, and 8,335 (6.4 per cent) went for scholarships abroad. Females made up more than half of the total enrollments.


It should be noted that the Sultanate ranked first among 129 countries in the percentage of graduates in engineering and science disciplines out of the total graduates in the Global Innovation Index.

“Within the framework of the ministry’s continuous keenness to harmonise the academic programmes of higher education institutions and scholarship programmes, and to keep pace with the changes taking place in the field of technology and various scientific aspects and changing the needs of the labour market, the ministry has approved a set of policies and procedures to bridge the gap in the outputs of higher education and the labour market requirements of different disciplines and skills.

This is done while keeping in mind that a significant proportion of the majors needed by the labour market often do not require labour specific academic fields but can accommodate several outputs if accompanied by on-the-job training after graduation.

"The policies included institutional and programme licensing controls, periodic reviews and updates of programmes, conducting periodic graduate surveys, representation of the private sector in boards of trustees, cooperation with labour sectors, training at work labour, the support provided by career guidance centres, enhancing orientation centres small and medium enterprises and the promotion of the concept of entrepreneurship,” the statement said.


Regarding the digital transformation plan, the minister added: "We have drawn up a plan for digital transformation in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology and with the Investment Authority. We expect that within a year from now, all systems will be electronic. All procedures are done electronically," confirming that private universities and colleges have been directed to introduce the disciplines of the fourth artificial revolution (4IR) and artificial intelligence, in the current universities.

About the strategic plan for government vocational education and training (2016-2025), the minister said: “The strategic plan relied on several pillars namely expanding the number of people enrolled in vocational education and training, providing and developing leadership, supervisory and executive human resources for the vocational education and training sector, providing and developing material resources for vocational education and training to comply with the needs of students, trainees, employees of vocational colleges and the needs of the labour market and finally ensuring the quality of vocational colleges in accordance with national and international standards and to develop the quality of education and training."

The statement indicated that the contribution of the government sector amounted to 42 per cent of the total expenditure on scientific research and development, while the private sector contributed 31 per cent, followed by the academic sector 27 per cent, noting that the private sector in countries with a knowledge-based economy spends amounts equivalent to 70 per cent of what countries spend on scientific research and development.

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