Bahrain’s public sector succeeding with nationalisation, says government, but private sector must follow

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 8 Mar 2017

Failure to meet Bahrainisation quotas will lead to fines or cancelled work permits

All expats employed in Bahrain’s public sector are on short-term contracts, according to the country’s government, which claims it is succeeding in its mission to decrease the number of foreign hires in favour of local talent.
 
Figures released by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ghanim Al Buainain, showed that only 17 per cent of government roles are now held by expatriates. The trend is towards fewer non-nationals, with just 173 joining in 2016 compared to 791 in 2011 and 593 in. In line with Bahraini law, foreigners are only hired once it is clear there is no suitably qualified or experienced Bahraini to fill the position.
 
The private sector is governed by different rules. The second phase of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority’s (LMRA) ‘Parallel Bahrainisation System’ will be launched in early May. Bahrainisation law states that one Bahraini has to be hired for every four foreign workers in the private sector. From 1 May, organisations below the Bahrainisation target will be charged a fee: LMRA chief executive Ausamah Abdulla Al Absi expressed his thanks to the 60 per cent of private sector employers that have met the target so far.
 
Last year, the LMRA accused organisations of consistently abusing the law and warned that employers who failed to adhere to Bahrainisation quotas would be fined or have work permits cancelled. “As of April 2017, we will also stop renewing permits if the Bahrainisation quota is not adhered to,” said Al Absi.
 
An LMRA announcement said that some organisations have Bahrainis on the payroll purely to secure work permits for foreign employees, which is known locally as ‘buying CPRs’. Other employers have allegedly fired Bahrainis after receiving the permits. The ministry said it had been carrying out thousands of inspections to ensure that all nationalities employed are carrying out legitimate jobs.
 
Graham Boyle, managing director at Global Executive Consulting, explained some of the challenges employers face when trying to meet the Bahrainisation quota. He said: “One issue is that employers may be looking for multinational work experience, which a lot of Bahraini nationals do not have. Despite the smaller gap between government packages and private sector packages in comparison to other GCC countries, most local talent tends to go to government organisations before private sector ones.
 
“Bahraini nationals do have the right experience for the private sector, but employers need a dynamic approach to integrating them into the business model and company culture. Bahrain still needs expat workers due to a shortage of highly skilled and qualified employees within specific industries that are still developing in the country.
 
“Healthcare, IT, telecommunications and banking are the main industries which have niche skills attached to them.”
 
The private sector is going to have to adapt to Bahrainisation. Al Absi said: “The LMRA, Labour and Social Development Ministry and the government have been working on Bahrainisation for 20 years. It is one of the important ways we have to give jobs to Bahraini citizens.”