Bahrain needs private sector help in Bahrainisation

11 February 2003
Bahrain's Labour & Social Affairs Minister Majeed al-Alawi on 10 February issued a plea to the private sector to help in creating jobs for Bahrainis. The call came in a statement detailing his plans to increase the participation of nationals in the labour market, while accepting the need for foreigners in some sectors. 'The ministry has undertaken a thorough study on foreign workers in various industrial and production fields in the country,' he said. 'It was realised that certain areas could be 100 per cent Bahrainised, while Bahrainisation could be less in other areas due to technical and professional issues.' From 2005, work permits would not be issued or renewed unless there were insufficient numbers of qualified Bahrainis to do the job in question, Al-Alawi announced. He said that the government and the private sector needed to work together to tackle unemployment. Young unemployed Bahrainis have staged several protests outside Al-Alawi's ministry in recent weeks to protest at the lack of job opportunities.

On the same day, business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed their willingness to employ qualified Bahrainis but warned the government against coercing them to do so, to the detriment of business. 'It's not our fault as businessmen that there are few qualified Bahrainis in the professions we need,' said the chamber's president Khalid Kanoo. He called government employment regulations 'harsh and arbitrary' and said that by forcing companies to train unqualified nationals the state was imposing unreasonable costs on the private sector. Kanoo suggested some form of database of unemployed Bahrainis and their skills, with employers allowed to hire expatriates if there were no qualified nationals. He also said that locals should commit to a reasonable length of service. 'It's hard to get a dedicated Bahraini these days, as everyone knows that most will attend the job for a week and leave the next, saying that it is against Islamic values or that they refuse to have an Asian as a superior.'

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