New Bahrain employment plan to focus on quality

June 22, 2012

Bahrain-based companies that offer high jobs and good salaries to Bahrainis will benefit from new advantages in hiring foreign labour, a senior official has said.

“Under the new scheme, the companies that focus on the quality of the jobs offered to Bahrainis will receive new benefits to hire foreigners,” Osama Al Absi, chief executive officer of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), said.

A pro-rata Bahrainisation plan supported by the LMRA to reform the labour market has tied hiring foreigners to the percentage of Bahrainis employed by the company.

The LMRA said that the move was needed to boost the number of Bahraini nationals taking up jobs.

However, several business owners have complained that the plan issued in 1996 was not working despite its laudable objectives and that the Bahrainisation quotas have prevented them from hiring foreigners and subsequently their work has been affected.

In a letter published last month in a local daily, a Bahraini businessman said that he was in a dilemma.

“It makes sense for the Bahrainis to be employed. They would hopefully spend all their money in Bahrain to the benefit of all,” Karim Mansouri wrote. “I started working with an idealistic vision. Bahrainis only need a chance, and with good words and good intentions, with training, they could do wonders. I am not a politician, I am a worker. I want to see a beautiful Bahrain with trees, footpaths, bicycle paths, beaches for all, honest and friendly people, helpful and caring, with jobs in manufacturing and technology. An excellent education system, free for all.”

However, Mansouri said that the reality was different.

“We must be honest, and I have not found many Bahraini waiters, waitresses, masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers, accountants, welders, engine mechanics, laundry men, crane operators, machinists, civil engineers, electricians, cooks, housekeepers, gardeners, and so on. So, where am I supposed to find these people?”

The inability to meet the Bahrainisation levels required by the labour authorities has affected his business, he said.

“Why are some of our outlets closed in our hotel and restaurant establishments? Because I cannot meet the Bahrainisation targets set, at eight per cent, 15 per cent and 30 per cent. Why do I have a 150 tonne crane parked with no crane operator? Why do I have machines in our steel workshop with no machinists? Bahrainisation!”

In March, the LMRA responded positively to a request by the Bahrain Chamber for Industry and Commerce (BCCI) to rethink the pro-rata Bahrainisation imposed on the industrial and trade sectors. The business community agency cited in its request specific jobs that do not suit Bahrainis’ qualifications.

The LMRA said that it would reconsider the policy and that it would conduct a study that focuses on all sectors.

Slightly more than half of Bahrain’s population of 1.1 million are foreigners, mainly unskilled labourers from Asian countries working in the construction and service sectors.

In April, Jameel Humaidan, the labour minister and LMRA chairman told parliament that Bahrainisation was important to create a peaceful society, arguing that jobs guaranteed personal security for citizens.

“The majority of our workforce is expatriate and their numbers are increasing,” he said. “We are already training Bahrainis to become the private sector’s premium choice, but there is unfair competition between Bahrainis and expatriates – considering that the second option is cheaper,” he said.

The minister said that a new labour market concept was being introduced.

“Everyone knows that there are a lot of vacancies without demand and jobseekers without opportunities, so we have to create equilibrium and that is what I am trying to introduce as a new labour market concept,” he said. “Rather than being graduates without any opportunity, many of the unemployed, through a new scheme approved by the Cabinet, will be presented opportunities as we repackage them and make them more attractive,” he said.

The minister said that 2,500 Bahrainis who graduated in humanitarian sciences would be retrained to become more employable.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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