TARGET SETTER

Oman 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Abdullah Nasser Abdullah Al Bakri, Minister of Manpower, on encouraging the employment of Omanis in the private sector.

HE Abdullah Nasser Abdullah Al Bakri
BIOGRAPHY
HE Abdullah Nasser Abdullah Al Bakri was born in 1965 and received a BA in Arts from Lebanon and an MA in Management Systems from the UK. He was first appointed Director General of Regional Municipalities and the Environment in 1992, before taking the same position but moving from the Interior Region to the Al Batinah North Region instead in 1996. In 1997, he became the Director General of Technical Affairs before moving to Water Resources Affairs in 2001. He later became the Undersecretary for Water Resources Affairs in the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources in 2003 and then took over his appointed position as the Minister of Manpower in 2008.

Can you elaborate on the Ministry's latest highlights and milestones?

The Ministry has implemented several programs relating to the labor, technological education, and vocational training sectors through coordination with government and private authorities. The updating of the provisions of Omani labor law has positively affected the employment movement and helped improve labor terms and conditions in the private sector, and this has consequently led to an increase in the number of paid national workers since the start of 2013 and until mid-2014. During this period the number of employed male and female citizens in this sector rose to 216,146. The application of the decisions and procedures adopted by the government had a positive impact on the stability of national manpower in the private sector. These decisions included raising the minimum wage of national manpower in the private sector to OMR325 per month as of July 1, 2013, the ministerial decision that granted private-sector employees an annual surge of no less than 3% of the basic salary, besides the decision relating to the transfer of salaries of private sector employees to their bank accounts and another decision that matched private sector holidays with those of the public sector.

How is the Ministry working to ensure a balanced presence of expatriate workers?

The Ministry works towards striking the balance of the labor market based on well-studied principles, as part of the government's trend to ensure that the percentage of expatriate workers doesn't exceed 33%. This will be achieved through the application of provisions of the labor law regarding the employment of national manpower in jobs requiring advanced administrative experience according to the Omanization and replacement programs in establishments operating in the oil and gas sector, and the recruitment of expatriate workers to fill in these posts. It is noteworthy that the Ministry is always keen to meet the actual needs of private establishments operating in the oil and gas fields for national or expatriate workers. And it should also be noted that a balanced labor market, in the light of the government's trend, enhances the activity of the national economy and serves the oil and gas sector.

How is the Ministry encouraging education among the workforce in the oil and gas sector?

Realizing the importance of availing specialist national manpower in the occupations and posts required by the oil and gas sector, the Ministry of Manpower has introduced the specialization of oil and gas engineering in the engineering programs at the colleges of technology. During the period from 2011 up to the end of the first semester of the academic year 2013-2014, a total of 177 male and female students were awarded diplomas in the oil and gas specialization, and there are currently 152 students who are continuing their studies in this specialization. To achieve the strategic objectives of human resources development, the Ministry works toward implementing the government's policies and programs meant to develop vocational education in the Sultanate, with the aim of preparing general education graduates vocationally and providing them with various levels of skills to join the private sector and take up the available job opportunities in the sector and meet the labor market's needs for vocational manpower.

What are the Ministry's priorities for the future development of Oman's labor market?

The Ministry of Manpower drafts short- and long-term plans and their alternatives based on a scientific basis, after studying the labor market and its developments. Among the top priorities in this respect is how to find employment opportunities for job seekers and the stability of national manpower in private sector establishments. The Ministry also continues its efforts to regulate and ensure a balanced labor market and promote the output of the colleges of technology and the vocational training centers, in accordance with the education and training quality requirements in the specializations required by the labor market.