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Absconding workers on the rise in Oman

Labourers make more money working at odd jobs in the construction sector

Gulf News

Muscat: The number of absconding workers is on the rise despite the authorities’ efforts to curb the trend by granting them amnesty.

More than 63,000 workers fled their employers in 2016, compared to 60,000 workers in 2015, according to the figures released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).

Economic experts attribute the reason behind workers leaving their employer to the quick money they make after working at odd jobs, especially in the construction sector.

Mohammad Al Beloushi, an economic expert, told Gulf News that each worker can earn at least eight riyals per day, which is decent for him or her, compared to the monthly salary they earn from their employers — the average monthly salary is around 80 riyals.

Muscat topped other governorates in the number of the absconding workers by 16,000 workers, followed by North Sharqiyah governorate by 8,000 workers.

Omani authorities deported more than 15,000 absconding workers last year, according to figures issued by the Royal Oman Police (ROP).

They were arrested by the joint inspection team of the ROP and the Ministry of Manpower. Most of them were from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

Under Oman’s laws governing foreign labour, each expatriate must be tied to an Omani sponsor and must work exclusively for him or her.

A change of job requires approval of the sponsor.

Many foreign workers from South Asian countries who come to the Gulf find jobs through recruitment agencies in their home countries that charge them exorbitant fees, often going as high as a year’s wages.

Desperate to find work and remit hard currency back home, many go into debt.

In 2015, more than 19,000 illegal foreign workers applied for amnesty to leave the country; many of them have been deported, according to the Ministry of Manpower.

The amnesty only applies to absconding workers and those who have overstayed their visas. Infiltrators are not included.

The previous amnesties were granted in 2005, 2007 and 2010.

Currently, expatriates form around 45.5 per cent of the total population, up from 38.9 per cent of the population in 2011 and 29 per cent in 2010.

The expatriate workforce in the country had reached 1,747,000, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) figures.

Oman’s Labour Law Article 114 stipulates that whoever employs non-Omanis without a licence will be punished with a fine of not less than 10 riyals and not more than 100 riyals.

The amount of fine shall be multiplied proportionately with the number of such employees in whose respect the violations are committed.

Such an employer shall, at his own expense, pay for his or her own repatriation.

Further, the employer will not be allowed to bring into Oman any non-Omani employee for a period of not more than one year.

A non-Omani employee who works in the sultanate without a licence from the government department concerned, or works with any employer other than his or her sponsor shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month and punished with a fine not exceeding 100 riyals or by one of them.