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21. August 2007

Skilled Indian workers shunning Bahrain jobs

India's booming economy could have severe consequences for Bahraini firms as skilled Indian workers stay home for better wages, experts have told GDN.The former president of the Bahrain-based Kerala Engineers Forum and consultant at a top engineering firm T M Haridasan has already revealed shortages of engineers are leading many firms to increase their prices to customers in order to offer better salaries - a practice he said is becoming necessary in a number of fields including IT and healthcare.

"We are facing a lot of problems nowadays - not on the unskilled side where the payment is less but on the skilled side.

"I currently have a requirement for about 12 engineers in Bahrain in various fields. Also in the IT field, the payment is good back in India.

"Many Indians are simply not willing to come to the Gulf now - we went there and offered them (jobs) but the payment structure here is not attractive and expenses are rising very sharply. If companies are ready to pay more then they may opt for that," he explained.

Mr Haridasan said Bahrain's policy of pegging the dinar to the US dollar was not helping matters.

"The present situation is the dollar has devalued a lot but the Bahrain currency is still pegged with the dollar and that also affects us and means I am losing around 15 to 20pc of my income.

"In India it was 47 rupees for a dollar and now it is less than 40 - but here it is still pegged with the dollar and I don't get to take advantage of that benefit. Only Kuwait has been bold enough to come out and revalue their currency against the dollar - and the expatriates there are getting the benefit of that," he said.

He also revealed as the numbers of Indian workers coming to the region starts to dwindle shortages of skilled workers is forcing those currently in the Gulf to shuttle between locations as and when their expertise is needed.

"Those are in the Gulf are shuttling between. They are switching from Dubai to Bahrain and Bahrain back to Dubai. But new entrants in the Gulf are very limited in the promotional and technical fields because India is fast developing in these areas - even in the construction field people are getting good offers as well as other benefits and they have the advantage of working in their own country," he said.

Such shortages are starting to impact on the bottom line of many firms in Bahrain, he said.

"There is a knock on effect as workers raise wages to try and tempt workers - in our industry we have a situation we have an escalation in our tenders of 20pc compared to two years back," he said.

Labour Ministry assistant undersecretary for training Ahmed Al Banna also acknowledged attracting skilled Indian workers was proving more difficult - but said this situation would offer more opportunities for Bahrainis.

"We have difficulties in technical areas - accountants, IT technicians, engineering, quantity surveyors, and in the ministry we have a lot of problems providing civil engineers for companies," he admitted.

"In the coming period there are a couple of issues going to take place in the job market which are going to provide opportunities for Bahrainis.

"In India, they are trying to upgrade salaries and this could lead to a scarcity of Indian nationals in the fields of IT, healthcare, engineering, and accountancy.

"What is happening with regard to the work permits in Bahrain, with the new LMRA taking over will start a new trend. The Labour Fund is working hard in investing more money in the development of Bahrainis. All these issues plus the demand with the continued growth of the economy will make some of these jobs really attractive to Bahrainis and there will be more opportunities for Bahrainis to take over from Indian workers," he said.

However, he acknowledged that among some Bahrainis there was little understanding of the rewards that some technical disciplines could offer.

"If you look at the unemployed, if you break them down, there are not many university graduates and if there are they are in the humanities fields not engineers and accountants and so on.

Bahrainis have to be very aware - normally when we tell them about the technical programmes they just see the job of a technician. But if you start as a technician you might be a GM one day," he said.

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