Muscat, Oman (BBN)-Oman on Monday extended by six months a ban on companies recruiting expats in the construction and housekeeping sectors.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri, minister of manpower, issued a decision temporarily banning the recruitment of expatriates for a further six months from May 4, reports Arabian

Alternative clearances may be issued for those who leave for good in these sectors, Oman News Agency reported.

Exceptions to the decision include companies working for government projects, companies that are managed full time by their owners, who are registered with the Public Authority for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (PADSME) and insured with the Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI), it added.

In October, Oman initially announced plans to suspend the recruitment of foreign workers in the sectors for six months.

The decision to suspend recruitment of foreign labour stems from the labour market regulation and review of the actual needs of the labour force in different activities.

The ministry has been relentlessly working to root out illegal workers so that more job opportunities can be created for the national workforce.

Earlier this year, Oman's government said it would limit the number of foreign workers and sharply raise the minimum wage for locals in a drive to increase employment of Omani citizens.

Around 1.3 million or 39 percent of the population of about 3.3 million are foreigners, most of them workers brought in to do skilled or strenuous jobs in the oil, construction and services industries, according to official data last year. Most are from south or southeast Asia.

In February, Oman denied reports it was set to sack 100,000 expats from jobs and give the work to Omanis but has not ruled out the plan altogether, saying the number and timeframe was being worked out.

The plan, reported in local media, was said to be aimed at redressing an imbalance in the Sultanate’s employment market and part of the broader Omanisation initiative.

BBN/ANS/AD-08May14-11:55pm (BST)