Monday, December 15, 2008

GCC to ban unskilled labourers after 5 years?!?

It seems the half-baked idea of GCC Labour Ministers to restrict expat unskilled labour in the GCC to no more than 5 years will be raised in a couple of weeks at the Muscat Conference. While the Bahraini minister who proposed the ban thinks the chance of endorsement is 70%, I'm not so sure.



For a start, 5 years is pretty impractical. It takes time to pay back the costs of travelling to Oman, and most labourers have a longer term plan of working for 15-20 years. Plus, the description of 'unskilled' is not really accurate. These guys do learn a lot in the first few years and as a result are more productive than someone fresh from the slums of India or Pakistan.

And of course, there are many, many jobs that Omanis simply will not (yet) do - digging holes or lugging bricks in summer, for example. Making them go home after 5 years will just lead to a pointless and expensive churn of labour. And many of the big businesses depend on this foreign labour. I'll be amazed if it passes.

Five-year cap rule for expatriates in the Gulf could be endorsed, says Bahraini official
By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Published: December 14, 2008, 13:51

Manama: A proposal by the GCC labour ministers to impose a cap on expatriate workers has a "good chance" of being endorsed at the forthcoming GCC summit, a Bahraini official has said.

"The suggestion to limit the stay of foreigners in a GCC country to five years has a 70 per cent chance of being approved by the GCC states at the Muscat summit this month," Majeed Al Alawi, Bahrain's Labour Minister, told Gulf News. "The chance for the proposal endorsement was only around 40 per cent when it was first made," he said.

The ban will be imposed only on unskilled workers who make up around 85 per cent of the around 13 million foreigners living in the six Gulf states.

Al Alawi has spearheaded the call to introduce the cap on unskilled expatriate labourers to help preserve the cultural, social and political identity of the region.

"With the massive presence of foreigners on their soil, the Arabian Gulf countries have a unique feature in the world. This could lead to a total alienation of the native population and the loss of the local identity," said Al Alawi, a former opposition figure who was given the labour portfolio in 2002.

Millions of foreigners, mainly unskilled workers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, have flocked to the Gulf states since the 1970s, seeking lucrative salaries.

16 comments:

  1. Brilliant idea, stunning in its vision, concept and simplicity.

    Err, so what's the purpose of it again? To preserve local identity? Ah! Nope, I still don't see any logical connection whatsover.

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  2. wow...I'm not convinced that they can viably make this happen. When you start thinking about what this means and how expensive it could get for EVERYONE...but that doesn't mean they won't try it. If this proposal goes through, it will be devastating to the economy here and also say to the expats who come into Oman that they don't want us calling Oman home...this plan will certainly backfire in the long run. Scarey.

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  3. wow...I'm not convinced that they can viably make this happen. When you start thinking about what this means and how expensive it could get for EVERYONE...but that doesn't mean they won't try it. If this proposal goes through, it will be devastating to the economy here and also say to the expats who come into Oman that they don't want us calling Oman home...this plan will certainly backfire in the long run. Scarey.

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  4. Nope. Not happening. And even it if did, it would last, oh, two maybe three weeks as the locals all bail back to the villages.

    And don't start on me again about the locals working just as hard as the Indians and the Pakistanis. That is utter bollocks.

    I see it every day. Laziness, apathy and utter contempt for anyone whom the locals feel are "below" them.
    "Yes, I will do it today, insha'allah" - and then back to the newspaper and the habibi-texting and, "oh, I have to go and get my sister's new passport.

    Humping bricks around in July, with the same productivity levels as the Indians and Pakistanis? Nope.

    Getting things done on the construction site that involves getting hands dirty? Nope.

    A 15 minute lunch break? You have to be kidding me!

    Besides: Why dig the roads for 120 Rials a month, when they could get the same in Borders or in Ministry administration? - nope, not happening!

    And why should they?
    The Indians and the Pakistanis come here because of the difference in CASH.
    They can earn more than four times what they do back home.
    They choose to accept the harsh conditions and the heavy work - and it is saddening to think that that is their only options, especially when they have had their passports taken away and the majority have no hope in hell of escaping until the contract is up.

    It's irritating to see both sides of the coin. But sending the "unskilled" labour home is not going to work - for either side!

    JD

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  5. Barbs,
    I know.

    Amber
    There will be loopholes so big you could drive a yellow poop truck through it, even if it passes, which it won't.

    There would still need to be a Royal Decree req. I'm sure to subsequently make any significant changes to the law.

    JD
    I'm sorry so many of your Omani co-workers seem to be so useless. That's not everywhere the case JD.

    I DO wonder if your average (whatever that means) 20-something Omani with a degree realises how hard most professionals and blue collar workers actually work in the USA. On TV its all the gansta goodlife and celebrities perhaps, but most people in the real world work their nuts off.

    Omani will never do construction until enforced standards, decent apprenticeship schemes, higher wages and automation are seen to be economic. But given the price to buy vs build houses in the UAE and Oman (a lot to buy here, far more than US), its surprising to think construction costs for domestic accommodation are probably at least 3x cheaper in Oman the in US. The price differential seems concentrated into land prices, which are waaaaay too high.

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  6. UD

    Some of my omani colleagues are fantastic workers, but they all shy away from the manual labour as if they could catch something from it!

    You've summed it up quite well in relation to the "TV America" kind of mentality here.

    Problem is that the locals are caught somewhere in the void between low paid Indians and high paid expats. There is a lot of disdain where I work, as the locals, while doing the same jobs - and most of the legwork - get less than a tenth per month than their expat counterparts.

    On the flying front thankfully, everyone gets paid the same. However, by the time most locals have reached the flightdeck, the damage in work ethic has been done.

    Where it has gone, I do not know, for all one has to do is turn the clock back a few decades and see how the falajs and the villages got built by the forefathers of the "minimum output, maximum complainers" that some of us are burdened with these days.

    What happened??????

    JD

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  7. JD asks a very important question- "What happened". One thing I think changed the Omani work ethic in one generation is the import of cheap Asian labor (circular reasoning- Hahaha)but not only the construction workers but the Asian housemaids. This generation of Omanis has grown up having their every whim catered to by the housemaid. Finished with the candy- drop wrapper on floor- housemaid scurries to clean it up- "job security'. However, I admit that I (an expat) am a little bit spoiled by our housemaid. But it is easier to see the problem in others.

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  8. Too many powerful people own large stakes in Construction companies here to allow such a racist move to happen.

    A balanced approach would be the launching of an apprentice scheme to train up locals to replace the immigrant workers. Simply 'Omanizing' the labour wont work, and by forcing a 5 year rinse, wash & repeat is going to do nothing but bad things for build quality.

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  9. Doesn't this 5-years cap thing mean that Mr. X comes to the country as an unskilled worker, he serves for 5 years, he leaves and then Mr. Y comes and serves for 5 years, then he leaves, and then Mr. Z comes and so on.. ?

    X, Y and Z are all expatriates, of course.

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  10. And by the way, even if this rule is implemented, of course some "big" businesses will manage to get exempts, just like how they get exempts for all the other laws.

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  11. Person A come to Oman. Year 1/2 learn sufficient language to communicate with locals and english speakers, aquire necessary work skills. Year 1/2/3 acclimatise to weather and local culture, agitate about and then get over your sense of grievance at pay, conditions and lack of respect from locals. Year 4 become really useful worker and understand your 'place' in local setting - keep your head down and don't rock the boat,renew visa for one final fifth year. Fifth year take as much as possible (by any means) and do as little as possible because they are going to kick you out anyway - leave with a feeling of resentment and rejection.
    Person B come to Oman....

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  12. Interesting post and responses.

    Doesn't the mastermind behind this ridiculous plan realize that employees are investments ? ( to a company or institution .. Making them leave after 5 years ( if you still need them ) is silly.

    Many of the responses here echo that but nobody has said. Just thought I'd mention it.

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  13. Yet another brilliant idea from a bunch of loonies who doesn't really understand the value of human resource!

    Fact 1: It is 3 times more expensive to hire a new employee than to fully train-up 3 employees.

    Fact 2: Expatriate employees provides more than 2 times the efficiency output than their local counterparts

    Fact 3: The local laborforce will never accept manual labor jobs unless mandated by government or threatened with bodily harm =)

    It's amazing how the architects of this obviously self-righteous bollocks-of-an-idea rests easy given the fact that they all require manual laborers (maids, cooks, drivers, personal assistants) at their homes just to function!

    I tell you what, ask these morons to set an example first and fire their entire household staff before they start blowing their whistle...

    It's arrogance without conscience that kills the cat!

    I wonder if they would even last a single month without their so called "unskilled laborers" to do what they been too lazy to do for themselves around their very homes...


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  14. how they preserved it for last 30/40 years? i think they have obtained this identity from the foreigners..just look at those people working hard to make a living..look at their face u dont feel pity instead of driving them away??

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  15. AfraidToShootStrangersDecember 27, 2008 at 10:46 AM

    What makes me so amusing is this statement of Mr. Al Alawi: "With the massive presence of foreigners on their soil, the Arabian Gulf countries have a unique feature in the world. This could lead to a total alienation of the native population and the loss of the local identity,"
    Is this 'alien population' that forced him to propose this resolution? How shallow sighted he is!! When you send one so called UNSKILLED worker back to his subcontinet country WHO is going to replace him at the work site? An OMANI? a BAHRAINI?? or that job and business cease to exist?
    Hoots to your localization endeavour which focuses and replaces only the 15% of foreign expat population. So dear Al Alawi, Do you have the manpower to replace the 10 million unskilled workforce with your highly skilled and enterprising local folks? to suit their safety and financial demands? Well, if you look at it from another angle, it will create more job opportunities for locals in many other offices - mass exodus of foreigners to and fro requires increased Visa prosessing, Ticketing, civil status requirements, etc. So more job requirement in these SKILLED sector could be filled up by the locals. While the GCC summit around the corner, hope they take this BOLD decision.

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  16. POST-SCRIPT:
    The GCC conference did not endorse the Bahraini's cunning plan to limit visas.

    No surprise there.

    Dragon

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