Rifts in Omani Employment Culture: Emerging Joblessness in the Context of Uneven Development.
Al-Hashmi, Julanda S. H.
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CitationAl-Hashmi, Julanda S. H. 2019. Rifts in Omani Employment Culture: Emerging Joblessness in the Context of Uneven Development.. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractBeginning in 1970, Oman experienced modernization at a rapid pace due to the discovery of oil. At that time, the country still had not invested much in infrastructure development, and a large part of the national population had low levels of literacy as they lacked formal education. For these reasons, the national workforce was unable to fuel the growing oil and gas sector, and the Omani government found it necessary to import foreign labor during the 1970s. Over the ensuing decades, however, the reliance on foreign labor has remained and has led to sharp labor market imbalances. Today the foreign-born population is 45 percent of Oman’s total population and makes up an overwhelming 89 percent of the private sector workforce. This reliance on foreign labor combined with high levels of population growth in recent years has led to an unemployment crisis for Omani youth, where 48 percent of young adults in the 15 to 24-year-old age range are reportedly unemployed. The Omani youth are at a disadvantage as companies in the private sector must pay them a higher minimum wage than their foreign worker counterparts. Prospective employers also tend to believe that young Omanis lack adequate training and work experience when compared to foreign workers. Many young Omani job seekers show significant ambivalence toward the job market because they are caught between different development frameworks, where the rentier-type state relationships that benefited their parents’ generation are no longer feasible given the growth of the Omani population and the number of young job seekers who are now active in the economy. Feeding into this ambivalence are the discourses or frameworks of thinking that are reproduced in how job seekers and employers talk and think about finding employment in Oman today. An abundance of foreign labor, the lack of adequate training, and a preference for government sector employment are now a sort of consensus in the literature that is used to explain why there are labor market imbalances in the Gulf Region more generally. In this research, I use in-depth interview and survey data with Omani job seekers, government officials, and company representatives to demonstrate that such perceptions are not as generalizable as assumed nor are they as clear-cut in every case. For example, the survey data in this research indicates that some parents of university graduates work in the private sector or have their own businesses in addition to regular salaried work in the government sector. Therefore, there may be more diversity and flexibility in earning a livelihood than is recognized. Although the scope for the empirical research in this study is small and exploratory, this thesis will describe the dynamics that help create gaps between the different labor market actors in Oman; gaps in the dynamics between the private sector and the educational system that some of the participants described as a “mismatch.” I suggest paths for further research to demonstrate why Omani youth are ambivalent toward the job prospects available and why they are not quite sure how to imagine their working futures in the private sector or as entrepreneurs.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004191