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In the pursuit of social reforms

In Oman, social development has been identified as a core component of the country's five-year plans

Social reform or development is a term that is always thrown around us. It is almost everywhere, almost all the time. They are happening, and we accept them. However, too often, we talk about reform in vague terms without specifying what we mean.

According to Collins, a reform consists of changes and improvements to a law, social system, or institution. A reform is an instance of such a change or improvement.

When income and income-related inequalities reach a certain level, those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are no longer in a position to enjoy many of their basic rights.

In the Sultanate of Oman, social development has been identified as a core component of the country's Five-Year Plans. Its social security system is well established and far-reaching.

The country’s leadership recognises the importance of rationalising the distribution of benefits and also strengthening coordination of social assistance with in-kind services and with other sectors such as employment and housing policy.

Oman’s launch of its comprehensive, integrated, and progressive social protection system aligns with Oman Vision 2040, the 10th Five-Year Development Plan, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Since the very first day of his accession to the throne, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik has confirmed his sincere endeavour to set up a new phase of Oman’s renewed Renaissance that fulfills the aspirations of the Omani people as well as preserves the achievements that took place over the past five decades.

In his Royal speech at the opening of the first annual sitting of the 8th Term of the Council of Oman, His Majesty the Sultan said, “We envisage that the Social Protection System will be comprehensive, extending its benefits to all segments of society, thereby guaranteeing a dignified life for all.”

By all metrics- from rapid economic growth rates to improved social indices- Oman today is a high-income, developing country. In the World Social Progress Index for 2022, Oman has won the 80th position globally, obtaining 67.7 points, and has ranked among the five best Arab countries in social progress.

With the issuance of Royal Decree No 52/2023, the Government of Oman embarked on a new Social Protection Law, setting a new regional benchmark for alignment with international labour standards in the area of social security and the progressive realisation of a rights-based universal social protection framework.

The law entails government-funded universal social protection benefits, including a cash benefit for all children under the age of 18, a universal old age pension for senior citizens over the age of 60, and a universal disability allowance.

In a bid to increase efficiency and coherence, all government and contribution-funded social protection benefits will be administered by the Social Protection Fund, a newly established unified social protection agency.

The new law also significantly expands protection for migrant workers in Oman, who represent over three-quarters of the country's working population. Migrant workers will be covered for employment injury, maternity, and sickness under the same terms as national workers.

For the first time in the region, a national provident fund will also be established to administer end-of-service benefits to migrant workers.

Even in the pursuit of equality, justice, and freedom, moderation and reason should prevail. This was reflective when His Majesty made mention of the value of the family unit in Omani society.

“As we discern the challenges pervading our society and recognise their intolerable impacts on its ethical and cultural fabric, we underscore the imperative to assiduously address, scrutinise, and continuously monitor these issues," he told the Council of Oman.

“It is imperative to accord paramount attention to the family, the cornerstone of our society, which acts as a bulwark in safeguarding our progeny from harmful ideologies that are in direct opposition to the tenets of our venerable religion and core values," he said.

After all, families are essentially the building blocks of society. Family units serve as the nursery for the citizens that become the population of a society!

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