Working in Oman
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Expats planning on working in Oman will find that the country's recent history of dependence on skilled foreign labour has paved the way for a smooth transition into the business culture.
Almost half of the country's population is comprised of expat workers, mainly from Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan and the Philippines. The Omani workforce is not only accustomed to the presence of foreigners, but also sensitive to their needs and appreciative of their talents.
That said, with Omanisation, it's not always easy to enter the job market.
Job market in Oman
Expat jobs in Oman are becoming increasingly limited. This is due to the government's policy of Omanisation, which aims to employ more Omani nationals than foreigners in the local workforce. Omani authorities must be convinced that a local worker could not adequately fill the position concerned before issuing an employment visa.
Although this can negatively affect mid-level or younger employees, those with particularly impressive qualifications or years of experience of working at the top level in their chosen fields should not struggle to find an attractive job in Oman.
Still, the job market for certain sectors remains relatively healthy and there are Oman Free Zones, which offer lower Omanisation quotas. Expats can find jobs in the industrial sector as well as hospitality, retail and contracting sectors. Some expat jobs are available in banking, finance and marketing, while healthcare specialists, teachers, project managers and IT specialists have also been in demand.
Finding a job in Oman
Since it is illegal to work in Oman on a visitor’s visa, expats must have a firm job offer before arriving in the country.
There are many job portals and online platforms to use when looking for work in Oman, including Naukrigulf, GulfTalent, Bayt and Indeed. Recruitment agents and relocation firms are more expensive alternatives, but can provide personalised assistance.
Expats will be hired on a fixed-term contract basis, and their Omani hiring company will even appoint a 'sponsor' to help organise an employment visa. We recommend employees read their contracts carefully as some expat contracts have been terminated early due to Omanisation, and renewals are not necessarily a given.
Omani employers are accustomed to providing attractive expat salary packages, often including transport, accommodation, flights home, medical insurance and schooling stipends. If not, we recommend expats negotiate this.
One of the sharpest double-edged swords for foreigners working in Oman is the issue of finding and changing jobs. There is a downside to this setup of attractive employment packages: since the hiring company invests significant time, effort and money to get an expat to Oman, changing jobs has proven almost impossible.
Expats who leave a position have had to leave Oman for two years before returning to take up another position. Alternatively, employers may sign a clearance letter or No Objection Certificate (NOC) to allow the change of jobs. Unfortunately, many employers refuse to sign the NOC.
The good news: in 2021, strict regulations on NOCs will no longer apply, which will make changing jobs much easier. As laws are subject to change, it's important to follow up with employers and embassies for the most up-to-date advice.
Work culture in Oman
New arrivals in Oman are unlikely to find the work culture especially alienating or challenging. Oman's reliance on foreign labour over the past few decades has meant that expat workers are now an established feature of the country's professional milieu. Still, while Oman is more progressive than its neighbouring countries, prejudiced and antiquated attitudes to women may be felt.
We recommend getting familiar with Arabic business culture, which differs from Western norms in certain respects. The Omani workforce upholds a strong work ethic and values loyalty, honesty, humility and the ability to foster personal relationships between co-workers. Most importantly, expats must remain respectful of the tenets of Islam, which play a significant role in the day-to-day life of Omani colleagues.
Omani work weeks are typically between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the industry. In general, businesses open around 8.30am or 9am and close at 5.30pm or 6pm. Note that weekends in Oman are over Fridays and Saturdays.