Reforms 'will contain Bahraini wage erosion'

Salaries for the nationals of Bahrain have been falling for the past 15 years and is expected to slip further if complacency continues.

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By  David Robinson Published  April 28, 2005

Labour reforms in Bahrain are expected to reverse a trend of falling wages for its nationals, it was declared yesterday. Salaries for the nationals of Bahrain have been falling for the past 15 years and is expected to slip further if complacency continues, said Labour Ministry Assistant Under-Secretary for Training Abdulelah Al Qassimi. "The average wage for Bahrainis was BD420 ($1114) in 1990, but by 2002 it had declined to only BD352," he said. "We predict that it could fall to BD315 if Bahrain does nothing." He was speaking at a meeting with Syrian Social Affairs and Labour Minister Dr Dayala Al Haj Aref at the Economic Development Board yesterday. Syrian and Bahraini labour officials compared notes about employment issues at the meeting following the signing of a co-operation agreement on Monday by Dr Aref and Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi. Al Qassimi outlined for her Bahrain's labour reforms plan, which aim to make Bahraini workers more competitive against their expatriate counterparts in the labour market. The reforms would increase the cost for employers to hire expatriates, making Bahrainis more attractive. "Employers have always maintained that hiring Bahrainis cost them a lot more than low wage expatriates. Not only are the salaries they demand higher, but it is said they have bad work ethics and need more training," said Al Qassimi. "Expats also are happy to work long hours in overtime while Bahrainis tend to have family and other commitments." Al Qassimi said that the public sector, already 94 per cent Bahrainised, cannot take in many more Bahrainis. "It now falls on the private sector to be the engine for economic growth and job creation." Dr Aref said that the agreement between her ministry and Dr Al Alawi's covered co-operation in vocational training, health and safety and labour inspection. "The details have yet to be finalised, but we will be exchanging visits to share expertise," she said. "Officials may be sent to Syria for training or vice versa. Or, experts from each country may visit the other to share experiences." Dr Aref arrived in Bahrain on Sunday and leaves tomorrow. Her visit to the country includes meetings with several senior government officials.

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