Here's why Oman removed its age limit for expat workers

  • businesses in Oman
    Jahidul-hasan /
Published on 2023-03-29 at 09:03 by Asaël Häzaq
The Omani private sector is rubbing its hands. For the past year, expatriates over the age of 60 have been able to continue working in Oman, thanks to a circular from the country's Ministry of Labor, which lifted the age limit for expatriate workers. It's believed that senior professionals have not only the knowledge and technical skills but also the experience, patience and resilience that are essential for the smooth running of a business. But is this measure open to all? Under which conditions can one work after 60 years of age?

Age is just a number in Oman

Dr. Mahad Al Ba'awain, Omani Minister of Labor, confirmed that age was no longer a barrier to the recruitment of senior expatriates. Last year, the government adopted a new directive that removed the age limit for expatriate workers, which used to be 60 years. Since January 2022, this limit no longer exists. As a result, foreign seniors can stay and work in the country for an extended period. This measure is part of a series of reforms from the Sultanate. Moreover, the rule prohibiting the extension of work visas beyond 60 years of age has been abolished.

However, the measure does not apply to all foreigners in Oman. In order to renew their work visas, expatriates aged 60 and more must prove that they are still working and that they have been working in Oman for at least 2 years via an employment contract. They also have to prove that they earn at least 4000 Omani rials per month, which is about 10,300 dollars (proof provided by the 6 months bank statement). With this measure, Oman is targeting a very specific audience: foreign talent.

Attracting foreign: Oman's challenge

This measure follows an urgent request from companies operating in the Sultanate. Before the reform, it was impossible for them to retain their foreign talent. Seasoned foreign workers are recognized as bringing expertise and know-how that companies could not find in younger workers. Besides, many expatriates who have reached legal retirement age are still willing to work. The government soon understood that not using their skills was detrimental to both large corporations and the Omani economy. That message from the private sector in 2022 was the signal that prompted the government to remove the age limit for foreign workers.

Echoing the arguments of the private sector, the Omani Ministry of Labor claims that the new regulations will allow companies to make more profits and thus better contribute to the country's growth. The government also hopes to attract international talent and investors back. Like other powers, starting with the Gulf states, Oman wants to attract foreign talent. In 2021, the government had already proposed a new retirement program allowing eligible foreigners to obtain residency. The aim was to revive the tourism sector, which had been badly affected by the pandemic. At that time, the country was home to about 1.5 million foreigners out of its population of 4.5 million. But more than 220,000 foreign workers left Oman at the beginning of the health crisis, the vast majority of them from the private sector. 

Removing the working age limit for expatriates is a new way to boost Oman's competitiveness in the international labor market. Theoretically, at least, this seems to be a win-win operation, but the measure does not have unanimous support.

What about young local workers amid the reform?

While local and international businesses in Oman emphasize the skills and know-how of older foreign workers, the younger generation does not all see it that way. They do recognize that senior workers are immediately operational thanks to their professional experience and that businesses not only save time but also gain in productivity and competitiveness by retaining them. However, young local talents also want to prove their worth. They are not against the Sultanate's directive, but they fear that they won't have enough access to job offers and career development opportunities. How to build a career when higher positions are always occupied by foreign seniors? How can younger workers gain experience if there is no turnover in jobs?

Businesses and the government prefer to be reassuring. They emphasize the sharing of experience, which can benefit both older and younger employees. In their opinion, the presence of people aged 60 and over is essential to transmit knowledge and to ensure succession and growth of the company and the country. For the government, this is a win-win situation that must be encouraged to increase the country's attractiveness.

Useful links:

Working in Oman: Government Portal

Oman: Ministry of Foreign Affairs