Number of Indian workers in Oman down 11%, shows dataUpdated: Oct 22, 2020, 23:51 IST
New Delhi The number of Indian workers in Oman dropped by 11.2% this year as a result of the economic downturn due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the country’s “Omanisation” drive to replace expatriates which is expected to pick up pace in the coming months.
The Indian community of about 700,000, including more than 567,000 workers, continues to be one the largest expatriate communities in Oman and people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that this was also the reason why the number of Indian workers had witnessed a sharp fall in the first six months of 2020.
According to figures from Oman’s National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the total number of expatriate workers in the country fell by 9.3% in the first half of 2020, when compared to the same period last year. Expatriates now account for about 38% of the total population, a five-year low from the figure of 43.6% recorded in 2015.
Most of the expatriates are Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. While, the number of Bangladeshi workers declined by 8.9% in the first half of 2020 to 590,748, the number of Pakistani workers also fell by 8.9% to 192,676.
On Wednesday, Oman’s labour minister Mahad bin Said Ba’owain held a meeting with state-run firms to discuss the replacement of expatriates with Omani manpower and a programme to “Omanise” leadership and supervisory posts. The people cited above said the move wouldn’t have much impact on Indian workers as the government sector employs only about 52,000 expatriates.
“With indications from several West Asian countries that locals will be given preference for jobs because of the Covid-19-related downturn, the long-term prospects of Indian workers is something that will need greater attention,” one of the people cited above said.
In an apparent acknowledgement of these concerns, a senior external affairs ministry official spoke about the need for a “smarter and more sustainable” approach to human resource exchanges with West Asian countries while addressing a seminar last week on the theme “Gulf and West Asia - reimagining business beyond oil”.
Sanjay Bhattacharyya, the secretary (consular, passport and visa and overseas Indians affairs), who oversees relations with the Arab world, described human resource exchanges and energy security as the “two biggest items” in India’s bilateral cooperation with West Asia.
“With the changing nature of industry and services, the introduction of new technologies and the development of new skills, we can leverage our interaction on the human resources front to one that is smarter and more sustainable,” he said.
Mobility agreements of the future can focus on integrating official migration platforms to ensure better flow of information between foreign employers and potential workers or professionals, and this in turn, will “facilitate selection of better and more skilled candidates...and improved job security”, he said.
Bhattacharyya noted in his speech that Indians were still the largest expatriate community in West Asia, with some nine million workers and professionals or 30% of the total expatriate workforce, who “remitted $48 billion to India, which helped domestic development”.
“With both India and the Arab region engaged in reforms and transformational changes in the economy, the strong political understanding and goodwill between the peoples can take economic engagement to a higher level,” he said.