MUMBAI: UAE employers hiring expat workers now have to meet requirements of the new ‘job occupational classification scheme’, which has reduced the number of job titles to 726 from the earlier 3,000.
Companies can apply for new work permits for their expat employees with job titles selected from the new list, which was introduced last month. Immigration experts point out the new classification is in accordance with International Labour Organisation standards and meets current requirements.
Migration to Gulf for jobs drops 62% over 5 years
Each job title belongs to one of the five levels of professional skills that determine whether the work permit application must be accompanied by a degree certificate. “It is now more important to ensure each candidate has educational qualifications relevant to the job title selected for them since a lot of designations that previously were exempt from this requirement, must now be accompanied by a legalised certificate,” says Dubai-based Marcin Kubarek, manager (knowledge content) at Fragomen, a global firm, specialising in immigration laws.
Among the Gulf nations, UAE, since the past two years, is the topmost destination country for Indian workers. During the 11-month period ended November 30, 2018, 1.03 lakh Indians (or 35% of the total immigrants to Gulf) were headed to UAE.
“The key factor is to identify the most appropriate title from the list which meets with the employer’s business activity and the employee’s responsibilities. The skill level will determine whether a degree certificate or school certificate is required,” explains Dubaibased Faraz Salat, a legal consultant with Al Rowaad.
Many workers from India are blue collar workers, like drivers, maids, construction workers. Under the new scheme, 55 job titles apply to occupations requiring low skills. “These occupations fall under the fifth level of limited skills and do not call for any specific education. However, nuances must be closely seen. For instance, if the construction worker is operating equipment, then the corresponding skill level will be four – requiring practical and vocational skill,” explains Piyush Bhandari, managing partner in IMC Group, a cross border advisory firm. “The latest change should not impact Indian blue collar workers, to a large extent,” he adds.
White collar workers, like GST experts, engineers, architects and teachers fall in the skill set requirement of first and second levels. Here, domain-specific academic or professional degrees and adequate exposure is called for, Bhandari states. Gulf aspirants on social media are expressing apprehension about the new norms, considering a requirement for Indian engineers working in Kuwait to obtain a No Objection Certificate from the Kuwait Society of Engineers had left many in the lurch, forcing the Indian government to step in.
These fears, for now, appear unfounded.
Kubarek explains: “Unlike some other countries in the Gulf, consular authorities of the UAE rely on a list of accredited schools and universities approved by the country where the degree was issued. They authenticate the document, rather than they verify the educational credentials. Currently, UAE does not mandate visa applicants to obtain NOC from other government agencies before approving work authorisations.”
“The overall pool of eligible employees will shrink due to regulations on certifications and relevant experience criteria. The employer might face the challenge of negotiating the compensation at higher rate due to the decreased pool,” states Bhandari.
Companies will not be able to bypass the labour market test, under which select companies before hiring expats were required to advertise on the ‘Tawteen Gate’ platform and hire locals. “In certain cases, companies selected alternative job titles that were less likely to trigger this labour market test. This practice is now being curbed,” states Kubarek.