A CAP on new work permits for expatriates could be introduced in Bahrain as the government prepares its new four-year employment strategy.

Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Humaidan told Shura Council members during their weekly session yesterday that studies for the 2023-2026 strategy are underway.

“The employment process is complicated and there are jobs that require more expats than Bahrainis, jobs that Bahrainis don’t want, and jobs that are subject to employers’ operations, amongst other issues,” said Mr Humaidan.

“We don’t have a ceiling for manpower within individual private sector establishments.

“There is an option for a cap for expat permits in each sector and could be used if necessary.

“There will be clear and transparent performance indicators for the strategy which would be electronically accessible for people to assess, suggest and monitor us should we deviate or face implementation hurdles.”

The upper chamber of the National Assembly unanimously voted in favour of a royal decree amending the 2006 Labour Market Regulatory Law aimed at drawing up a strategy by the Labour and Social Development Ministry in consultation with the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA).

The new employment strategy will cover four years instead of the present two.

“The current 2021-2022 strategy will not be changed or amended,” said Mr Humaidan, who is also LMRA board chairman.

Shura Council first vice-chairman Jamal Fakhro said it was sad that 20,000 Bahrainis were still seeking jobs while there were 450,000 expatriate workers in the kingdom.

“In the US and Canada there is a cap on foreign immigrants to protect the local workforce.

“The issue here is about fixing things in the labour market and prioritising Bahrainis.”

Shura financial and economic affairs committee chairman Khalid Al Maskati said the minister’s new responsibilities would ensure a more effective approach to Bahrainisation problems and finding suitable jobs for nationals.

“There is no clash when someone plans and executes a strategy; the minister will draw up things and then implement and follow them up,” he added.

“Nothing is perfect but what was done during the pandemic to protect jobs and find employment reflect challenges that could be tackled.”

Shura also unanimously approved a decree to amend the 2014 Engineering Professions Regulatory Law.

Shura Chairman Ali Al Saleh said massive projects planned in the country require specialised expat engineers.

“The expat engineers would be brought under exceptional permits and under strict conditions,” he added. “They are not here to take jobs from local engineers.”

Shura members also agreed with MPs to reject parliamentary amendments to the 2006 Labour Fund (Tamkeen) Law that would give micro, small and medium enterprises a quota on the board.

The government revealed that support was already being given to 3,932 micro, small and medium enterprises compared with 433 large and big companies.

Tamkeen chief executive Hussain Rajab said decisions are taken to support, enable and protect micro, small and medium enterprises.

“Seventy per cent of our support and aid goes towards upcoming enterprises,” he said.

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