Working in Oman
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 business culture. Over a quarter of the country's population is comprised of expat workers, and the Omani workforce is not only accustomed to the presence of foreign workers, but sensitive to their needs and supportive of their talents too.
Expat jobs in Oman
Although expat jobs in Oman are not as widely available as they were five or 10 years ago, the job market for skilled foreign workers is still healthy.
These days, in order for an expat to be issued with an employment visa, Omani authorities need to be convinced that a local worker could not adequately fill the position concerned. 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.
The most common jobs for expats in Oman are in the oil, gas, petroleum, teaching, medical and construction industries. Engineers, IT specialists, project managers, teachers and language instructors are in particular high demand.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the recent global economic downturn, the auditing industry has seen the greatest number of new jobs advertised over the past few years.
Finding a job and changing jobs in Oman
One of the sharpest double-edged swords for expats working in Oman is the issue of finding and changing jobs.
On the plus side, since it is illegal to work in Oman on a visitor’s visa, expats must have a firm job offer before even arriving in the country. 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. Omani employers are accustomed to providing attractive expat salary packages (often including transport, accommodation and schooling stipends).
However, the downside to this setup is that since the hiring company must invest a significant amount of time, effort and money to get an expat to Oman, changing jobs once there is extremely difficult. Expats who leave a position have to leave Oman for two years before returning to take on another position. This is a recent change which has been put in place to encourage companies to employ Omani workers before bringing in expats.
There is one way around this problem, though it is unlikely that Omani employers will be amenable to providing it. Expats can get a clearance letter or No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the employer, but that would result in the company having to reduce its expat quota.
Work culture in Oman
Expats in Oman are unlikely to find the work culture especially alienating or challenging at all. 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. However, the Omani government recently brought in stricter immigration rules to lower the percentage of foreign workers it allows into the country.
Those relocating to Oman to work in the business sector should read up a bit about Arabic business culture, which differs from Western business culture in certain respects. Otherwise, expats will discover an Omani workforce that upholds a strong work ethic, and that values loyalty, honesty, humility and the ability to foster personal relationships between co-workers.
Expats will be expected to work hard in Oman, and to remain at all times respectful of the tenets of Islam, which play a significant role in the day-to-day life of Omani colleagues.
Although attitudes toward women in Oman are generally far more progressive than in any of its neighbouring countries – and although women do comprise a significant portion of the Omani workforce – it is not impossible that female expats will encounter a few individuals who retain antiquated and prejudiced beliefs. Do not feel threatened by these attitudes, but do not hesitate to challenge them either. One of the new immigration laws is aimed at limiting the number of expat women employed in Oman, so it might be harder for them to find work in the country now.
Working hours in Oman
The working week in Oman will typically be between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the industry. In general, the working day starts at around 8.30am or 9am, and finishes at 5.30pm or 6pm. Note that weekends in Oman are on Thursdays and Fridays.