Oman says expat workforce fell by 200,000 in year to March

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DUBAI, June 2 (Reuters) - More than 200,000 foreign workers left Oman between March 2020 and March this year, the ministry of finance said on Wednesday, a week after protests over unemployment erupted in several cities of the Gulf state.

The population in the oil-rich Gulf region declined by about 4% last year amid an exodus of expatriates due to the coronavirus pandemic and lower oil prices, S&P Global Ratings has estimated.

This was partly caused by the economic downturn, and partly to workforce nationalisation policies which gained traction after the coronavirus outbreak.

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Early in the pandemic, Oman - where youth unemployment is now over 10% - ordered state firms to replace foreign employees with nationals to ease pressure on the job market.

"Expatriates employed in the government sector fell from 53,332 to 49,898. While expatriates employed in the private sector dropped from 1,608,781 to 1,403,287," said the ministry in a statement.

Oman's ruler Sultan Haitham promised last week, on a third day of rare demonstrations in several towns and cities, to create 32,000 jobs and subsidise private companies that take on Omanis, despite pledged cuts in public spending as part of an austerity plan. read more

Oman posted a deficit of 827 million rials ($2.15 billion) in the four months to April, the ministry said on Wednesday, with revenues declining by 27.7% annually during the period.

Net oil revenue was down by 36.8%, "due to lower oil production in compliance to OPEC plus agreement, low oil price and persisting consequences of COVID-19 which have adversely affected economic growth and public finance," the ministry said.

Public spending during the four months to April declined by 2.7% year on year.

"This comes as a result of fiscal consolidations carried out by the Government to mitigate economic consequences, and to rationalize spending and enhance its efficiency," it said.

($1 = 0.3840 Omani rials)

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Reporting by Davide Barbuscia Editing by Bernadette Baum

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