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|24 March, 2019

New bid to limit expat contracts in Bahrain

New law would limit expat contracts in public sector to maximum of two years

Image used for illustrative purposes Laptops sit on a table in the empty offices of Cambridge Analytica in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 2, 2018. Image used for illustrative purposes.

Image used for illustrative purposes Laptops sit on a table in the empty offices of Cambridge Analytica in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 2, 2018. Image used for illustrative purposes.

REUTERS/Leah Millis

MPs are reviewing a change in the law, which would limit expat contracts in the public sector to a maximum of two years.

Parliament has already approved a proposal to replace all foreign civil servants with Bahrainis within four years.

That proposal is now being reviewed by the Cabinet, but in the meantime a parliamentary committee is also studying a 24-month cap on expat government jobs.

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“Fifteen per cent of Bahrain’s public sector workforce is currently expat,” said parliament’s legislative and legal affairs committee vice-chairman Dr Ali Al Nuaimi.

“We want contracts to be handed out on a two-year basis without being renewed, so a suitably trained Bahraini can take the job immediately afterwards.”

A total of three amendments to the 2010 Civil Service Law are now being studied by the committee.

Dr Al Nuaimi said the aim was to achieve 100 per cent Bahrainisation in the government sector by 2030.

“The government should be working to achieve that target long before this deadline,” he added.

“We have qualified Bahrainis seeking opportunities and, with further specific training, they could take posts that expats currently occupy.”

In addition to capping the length of expat salaries, the amendments also require 30 hours of training every year for each Bahraini civil servant.

They also seek to guarantee that Bahraini government personnel get a 3pc pay rise every year.

“Two years ago a deputy premier ordered the cancellation of annual pay rises,” explained Dr Al Nuaimi.

“However, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa intervened and reinstated it.

“This situation could have been averted if the pay rise was set in law.”

The committee is now due to meet with the Civil Service Bureau next month for final discussions before tabling the amendments to parliament for a vote.

“The committee may have other amendments, but we are relatively convinced with it (the law) in most aspects,” added Dr Al Nuaimi, who is the son of Education Minister Dr Majid Al Nuaimi and parliament’s youngest MP.

In addition to proposing the complete Bahrainisation of the public sector, parliament last month launched a probe into the government’s recruitment of expatriates.

The inquiry will also review the hiring of foreign staff at companies in which the government owns a majority stake.

MPs this month also voted in favour of an urgent proposal to scrap a flexible work permit scheme, which allows expats to operate as freelancers in Bahrain by sponsoring themselves – claiming it provides unfair competition for Bahraini jobseekers and companies.

An increasing emphasis by parliament on Bahrain’s expatriate workforce prompted the government on March 6 to add a BD500 charge on each foreign employment visa provided to companies that do not meet a Bahraini staffing quota.

An amendment that makes it mandatory for private health institutions to recruit qualified Bahraini doctors, technicians and nurses was also ratified by His Majesty King Hamad this month.

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