Mounting problems of unemployment and salary stagnation in Oman

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Oman has recently been facing growing workforce and unemployment problems, made worse by the lack of any social security or safety net to help the unemployed, while nothing is being done to tackle the roots of the crisis.

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Several accredited international indicators put the rate of unemployment in Oman at between 16% and 17.5% of the total population, a proportion that is growing constantly as more young Omanis graduate from schools, colleges and universities.

Journalists’ reports and international data suggest that the rate of youth unemployment could be as high as 50%, and that 70% of females remain outside the labour market.

There are very few signs of government intervention to solve the crisis, and what measures the government does take are generally vague and unspecific.  For example, the government announced at the end of last year that it was creating 25,000 jobs to absorb many of the unemployed, but – quite apart from the fact that this number is well below the true number of unemployed – it was not at all clear how people would actually be placed in these jobs.

Meanwhile, there is also a growing problem over the matter of pay increments.  State employees are getting stuck at the same salary level within their grade on the government payscale for far longer than the recognised statutory period.

From the OCHR’s own contacts with unemployed Omanis, and reports from people who have contacted the Centre spontaneously, we have gathered the following information about the current situation:

  • Many unemployed people have had appointments for job interviews but ended up not getting a job and not knowing the reason.
  • Some of them get jobs that do not match their academic specialisations, on salaries that do not reflect their qualifications or areas of expertise.
  • Most jobs are low paid and with no provision for health benefits or professional development.
  • There is no fixed contract giving workers security of employment.
  • Some people have claimed that their line managers are not Omanis but foreigners who have similar or lower levels of education than their own, and who lack the experience required, but get much higher salaries together with health and housing benefits, professional development and annual pay increases.
  • Oman does not have any social security programme for the unemployed, such as short-term financial assistance or housing benefits etc.
  • Every year Oman deliberately conceals the true unemployment rate, as well as the numbers leaving education and swelling the ranks of the unemployed, which is why there are no accurate statistics.

Oman has not signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which includes the following provisions:

  • the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work, including equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted;
  • the exercising of rights without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;
  • the right to technical and vocational guidance and training programmes;
  • the right to form trade unions, and the right of trade unions to function freely without limitations;
  • the right to strike.

Some observers and activists within Oman think the crisis has been fabricated by the government in order to increase employment in the police and military sectors, the two biggest providers of jobs since the demonstrations and protests of 2011.

What do you think?  What should the government of Oman be doing to create job opportunities and ensure all the minimum rights of the unemployed?