Number of Bahrainis in private sector rises

AN increasing number of Bahrainis are being preferred for jobs in the private sector despite expatriates still dominating the labour market by an overwhelming 82.5 per cent, according to a top minister.

At the end of last year, there were 498,000 expatriate workers out of a total of 604,000 in the private sector, representing a 0.8pc drop from the year before, added Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Humaidan.

Addressing MPs during parliament’s weekly session yesterday, he said that 106,000 Bahrainis enrolled in the private sector until the end of last year – an increase of 1.5pc from the year before. The figures excluded housemaids.

However, the minister pointed out that Bahrainis did not like to take up construction jobs with the result that the sector had a large number of expatriate workers.

“The numbers are changing as we introduce employment incentives that favour Bahrainis, whether directly through the ministry or the Labour Fund (Tamkeen), making Bahrainis less expensive to hire, constant and a preferred choice,” said Mr Humaidan.

“We are working to improve public income through the employment of Bahrainis, who until last year were 106,000 individuals with an increase of 1.5pc from the previous year, with expat workers figures standing at 498,000 despite a drop of 0.8pc.

“For two weeks, I instructed the Labour Market Regulatory Authority not to accept requests for expats in 530 professions and we managed to get 2,005 Bahrainis hired in decent paying jobs.”

He said improving public income and job sustainability was a priority for the government.

“More qualified Bahrainis are available, following free training provided through 85 accredited institutes, and they are being actually hired,” said Mr Humaidan.

“Yes there are 29,000 expats on flexible work permits but this has dropped slightly from the same period last year.”

The minister said the BD336 monthly basic needs line, which was drawn more than a decade ago to calculate social welfare payments, was an old indicator when in reality the amount paid was much higher.

“We pay anti-inflation, meat, pensioners, disability and housing aid allowances and all these add up to much more than the number people are talking about.

“The BD336 cap is up for review and we had given different suggestions but MPs rejected them all; the fact is the government is giving support in millions of dinars to ensure that decent living standards are maintained.”

Parliament public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Hamad Al Kooheji said even if a family survived on three meals of canned tuna daily the cost would reach BD400.

“The BD336 cap has been used by our enemies for political gain; imagine if the monthly rent is BD250 per apartment, fuel costs around BD40, and after spending on phone and Internet, there is nothing much left,” he said.

“We hear that average wages in the private sector are BD450 a month, but there are many still getting BD150 to BD200.”

Meanwhile, Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf was involved in a heated argument with Isa Al Dossary who accused the former of carelessness and improvised reactions when carrying out infrastructure projects.

“Execution is easy but planning takes months and years,” said Mr Khalaf. Besides, things may change on site due to unexpected discoveries underground like artefacts, cables, pipes, or trespassing on private property.”

He said work could be delayed for various unavoidable reasons but penalties are imposed in case of undue delay.



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