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Expat population crosses pre-pandemic levels

27 Nov 2022 By M NAJMUZ ZAFAR

Muscat – Oman’s expatriate population, which had dropped 11 per cent or 218,000 in 2020, is back to pre-pandemic levels and has crossed the 2mn mark once again.

The total expatriate population in Oman in 2019 was 1,963,000 and 2.02mn in 2018. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it declined to 1,745,000 at the end of 2020.

According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the expat population in October this year was 2,019,348, an increase of 17 per cent or 296,019 compared to the 2021 figure of 1,723,329.

With the sultanate witnessing a budget surplus due to windfall gains from high international crude oil prices, signs of economic recovery and job creation are on the rise.

Recruitment picked up in the ten months of 2022, with over 102,000 Bangladeshi workers, 53,000 Indians and 58,000 Pakistanis forming the bulk of the new arrivals.

According to NCSI, 1,712,798 expatriate employees were working in various sectors in the sultanate at the end of 2019. The number dropped to 1,443,128 in 2020 and 1,409,473 in 2021. However, 2022 has seen a recovery, with the expatriate workforce going up 18 per cent – compared to the end of 2021 – to 1,662,619.

Year 2020 was the worst for the expatriate workforce, as over 269,600 left Oman, while 33,655 left in 2021. In the two years, a total of 303,325 expatriate workers left the country.

Sector distribution

The private sector, which employs the majority of expatriates, grew by 214,682 expat workers to 1,346,208 till October from 1,131,526 in 2021, while those engaged in the domestic/family sector grew by 51,034 to 290,985 from 239,951.

However, the number of expats working in the public sector fell by 12,570 to 25,426 from 37,996 at the end of 2021.

Bangladeshi workers continue to make up the bulk of the expatriate population, with their numbers rising by 102,705 to 633,758 in October 2022 from 531,053 in 2021. The Indian expat worker population went up by 53,361 to 524,539 from 471,178, while the Pakistani worker population rose by 58,837 to 252,885 from 194,048 making up the top three expatriate employee populations.

The construction sector – the largest employer of expatriates – employs 438,018 and has added 84,434 new workers in the first ten months of 2022, followed by wholesale, retail and repair of automobiles as one sector (up by 36,497 to 243,365), domestic sector (45,626 to 228,226), manufacturing (191,789), and accommodation and food services (122,966), accounting for the top five sectors for expat workers.

The Governorate of Muscat is home to the largest number of expatriate workers (659,089), followed by North Batinah (238,378) and Dhofar (205,656).

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