Gulf States want to give expats working in the oil and gas sectors more freedom of movement.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are looking at the implications of a single working visa allowing expats the chance to move between each country without having to go through any more red tape.
Labour ministers in each of the oil-rich nations – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – will meet within a few weeks with a view to agreeing the measure.
They see freedom of movement for oil and gas workers between the countries as an economic benefit that will help the industry.
Move will aid oil and gas workers
However, the move goes against the grain of recent policies in several of the countries to give local workers the chance to fill posts ahead of expats.
But the governments are willing to do less to hinder oil and gas professionals as the industry is the lifeblood of their economies.
Many of the professionals in managerial posts are top talent who could easily find a job elsewhere and the GCC wants to do as much as possible to keep them.
“The issue is still under negotiation, but the aim is to allow GCC citizens and expats to live and work wherever they want within member countries,” said Kuwait social affairs and labour minister Hind Al Subaih
An estimated 20 million expats live in GCC countries, making up around 40% of the region’s population.
Singapore limits expat job postings
Another country pushing for locals to be given the chance to take jobs ahead of expats is Singapore.
New rules in force from this month (August 2014) mean all employers must consider Singapore job candidates ahead of expats.
Firms must advertise all vacancies on a government web site for two weeks so Singapore candidates can apply. If none apply or a suitable candidate is not found, the job can then be posted from expat applications.
A few jobs are exempt from the rule – including posts advertised for firms with less than 25 workers, jobs paying a fixed monthly salary of less than £5,950 or more and contracts of a month or less.
Recruiters argue the measure hit Singapore’s financial services sector, which employs a higher number of expats than other sectors.
“The regulations will help locals in Singapore find better jobs,” said a manpower ministry spokesman.
“Companies that break the rules could have the working visas of expats employed ahead of Singapore nationals withdrawn.”