By: Samir Kantaria, Roxanne Vesuvala

Firm: Al Tamimi & Company

This article describes further restrictions imposed on expatriate employment in Saudi Arabia and Oman that will take effect in 2018.

Across Gulf Cooperation Council (‘GCC’) countries (i.e. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE), expatriates are estimated to make up a significant part of the population. The high proportion of expatriates in the workforce has led to a number of changes to the employment regimes in each country and governments have been introducing various ‘nationalisation’ measures to encourage the employment of nationals over expatriates in the private sector workforce.

Developments in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, growing concerns over the lack of job opportunities available to Saudi youth and an expected increase in women entering the workforce have led the authorities to introduce measures under the Nitaqat system.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Development (‘MOL’) introduced the Nitaqat system in 2011 to encourage the employment of Saudi nationals in the private sector in Saudi Arabia. It operates by classifying employers into six categories – Platinum, Green (High, Medium and Low), Yellow and Red – depending on various factors such as the size and activity of the company, as well as the percentage of Saudi nationals in the workforce compared to expatriate employees. Further, under the Nitaqat system, certain professions are reserved for Saudi nationals. As it currently stands, 18 roles are restricted to Saudi nationals only.

The MOL has now introduced a prohibition on expatriates from working in 12 additional sectors. The prohibition will be phased in from September 2018 onwards.

The 12 work areas banned for expatriates are listed below along with the dates of their implementation.

Developments in Oman

Conceived along similar lines, Oman’s nationalisation policy, ‘Omanisation’, has been in effect since 1988. However, in the last few years, and since protests erupted in 2011, the government has been making more efforts to enforce Omanisation and provide more job opportunities for its citizens.

On 28 January 2018, the Ministry of Manpower (‘MOM’) issued a temporary 6-month freeze on the issuance of work permits and visas to expatriates in 87 job positions. During this 6-month period, expatriates who are already employed with companies in Oman and carrying out a job on the MOM list may continue to work as long as their work permit and visa are valid. However, if expatriates need to renew their work permits or visas during the 6-month freeze, they will be unable to do so and will therefore have to find alternate work in a different job or will have to leave the country.

The 87 restricted job titles are spread over ten different sectors and include (but are not limited to) the jobs listed below:

It is expected that additional measures will be introduced over the next few years.