Facing pressure from the businesses, the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries have agreed to put off the six-year residency cap on unskilled foreign workers, a move likely to benefit thousands of expatriates including those from India.
The residency cap was postponed indefinitely because of pressure from businesses and other circles in the Council, comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman, Dr Juma Bin Ali Bin Juma, Oman's Labour Minister, said on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue on overseas labour.
"Initially, GCC countries were broadly in favour of a proposed law to impose a six-year residency cap on unskilled foreign workers, but it was proved impractical for the time being," he was quoted as saying in Gulf News.
The residency time ceiling, he said, may not be the best option and needs more discussions. The proposed law would allow unskilled labourers to work on a three-year contract, renewable only once. However, it would be applied separately to each country, meaning labourers could continue to work in other Gulf countries.
The Omani minister admitted that the residency cap was meant to address fears that unskilled foreign manpower who lives for long periods might demand "civil and political rights". This is why, he said, foreign workers are recruited in Oman on two-year contract, renewable with the approval of the Labour Ministry.
Bin Juma said the GCC countries favour cutting down the foreign workforce by depending on technology rather than intensive and cheap manpower. However, the Abu Dhabi consultation on labour steered away from the specific issues like the six-year cap.