OUTLOOK — By Salim Al Riyami — Last week, I read a news in Oman Daily Observer that “300 quit private sector jobs daily”. I am shocked with that figure, and I have asked myself: How this could happen in a country that is encouraging both privatisation and Omanisation. The government is encouraging citizens to accept jobs in private sectors, highlighting its benefits for Omanis and on diversifying the Sultanate’s economy. I would like to quote His Majesty’s illuminating words regarding working in the private sector, “The citizen should not refuse to accept work, when there are job opportunities in various sectors — particularly in the private sector which is full of job opportunities.”
“Undoubtedly, achieving any step in this long path, will provide more job opportunities, particularly in the private sector which we reiterate our call to it in every occasion to take the initiative in this area and to work seriously and with high national spirit to increase Omanisation percentages in its big and small establishments and companies” (from His Majesty’s speech on 30/01/1995 and 25/09/2001, respectively) . Despite such directives, still some Omanis are quitting the private sector and prefer the government sector instead?!
Before analyzing this problem, or rather this dilemma, I would like to point out some of the advantages and disadvantages of both the private sector and the government one. These points are based on my experience in HR and the various employees I have dealt with during my career to date.
Advantages of private sector: Among the advantages of the private sector are; higher salaries, less bureaucracy, and better chance for promotions. Disadvantages of private sector: Less job security, less facilities and benefits, highly competitive, stressful environment, and workers rights are sometime weaker.
Let us see the other side of the equation; Advantages of the government sector: Among the advantages of the government sector are; job security, more facilities and benefits, the like of better pension, easy to apply loans and longer holidays granted, as well as much less stressful environment. Disadvantages of the government sector include: Low salary, bureaucracy, and less chance for promotion.
I would like to further highlight some of the private sector disadvantages mentioned above, as they may be among the reasons why Omanis leave the private sector:
Job Security: Private sector employees can expect less job security. Layoffs and terminations are common. Even high-level employees in upper management are not immune to market forces or the effects of the occasional poor management decision. Also, failure to acquire project financing, company acquisitions or low business performance all can act against an employee.
Facilities and benefits: There are some facilities and benefits the government secures for their employees, one of the most significant facility perceived by many Omanis is the bank loan facility. By default, if you work in the government, the bank is willing to give you a loan, but if you are working in the private sector, then condition apply! This issue was commented by Sheikh Ali al Badi, Deputy Chairman of the Economic Committee at the Majlis Ash’shura. Another occasional facility which has been given to job seekers, was the last year announcement of unemployment allowance to be given for job seekers. This announcement by the government has led to an unusually high number of Omanis leaving private sector jobs in order to get such allowance.
Stressful Environment: Unfortunately, some Omanis, especially in the lower grades, prefer jobs that have shorter working hours, less overtime, in offices and for selective trades like drivers and PROs. I remember those kinds of problems I have witnessed in one of the organisation I had worked for.
Who is to the rescue?
Clearly recruiting Omanis and accordingly Omanisation is becoming a catch-22 situation for the private sector. The government is encouraging Omanis and companies for hiring of nationals in the private sector, while young Omani employees and job seekers are quitting and shunning opportunities in the private sector.
Both the government and the companies in the private sector have worked towards the recruitment of nationals in such sector, but proven to be insufficient to make those Omanis attracted to work in the private sector and to remain there. There is a gap that needs to be narrowed; not only by the government and the companies, but the employees as well should be involved. There should be a collective, 3-tier bond among the three bodies.
The government should introduce policies and procedures (labour laws) that are more attractive and convincing for the Omanis to join the private companies. The employer should not take the Omani Labour Law to the minimal; instead, they should treat employees like assets, especially the young Omanis whom they should invest on by introducing attractive employee value proposition. The young Omanis on the other hand should not have negative stereotype ideas about working in the private sector. They should be flexible and adaptable to various types of jobs and trades and not specific ones.