By REBECCA TORR
FOREIGN workers will need to upgrade themselves educationally, socially and culturally if they are to have a place in Bahrain’s Vision 2030, says a top economist.
If you are not a qualified person in your field you won’t have a place in Bahrain in 2030 because the country is going to be working on productivity and competitiveness, said Bahrain Export Development Society (BEDS) chairman Dr Yousef Mashal.
“Foreign workers that do not upgrade themselves now and master the skills in their field by 2030 won’t be needed because by that time Bahrain will be a highly competitive market that requires qualified foreign workers,” he told the GDN.
“In the past an unskilled labourer would come here and learn a trade in just say construction or plumbing and move all the way up until he became a master.
“But Bahrain is not going to continue to require low-skilled foreign workers that come here to learn a skill.
“The learning and training is going to be for Bahrainis who will go on utilising expert and qualified foreign workers.”
Dr Mashal said the Economic Development Board’s Vision 2030 was an aspiration to shift from an oil-based economy to a productive, globally competitive economy, shaped by the government and driven by a pioneering private sector.
“The private sector will have to upgrade its services and pay higher wages to do this and in turn these employees, who are consumers, will demand better services – it’s a circle,” he explained.
Dr Mashal said at the moment the majority of Bahrain’s foreign workers transferred their wages to their home country.
However, by bringing in highly qualified workers a large majority of their earnings would be spent in Bahrain because they would demand a lifestyle that was culturally and socially of a higher class.
Dr Mashal, who is also Mashal Group chief executive director, said Vision 2030 was built on three main pillars – sustainability, competitiveness and fairness.
The result would be a pioneering middle class of Bahrainis who enjoy good living standards through increased productivity and higher paid jobs, he added.
He said to be competitive Bahrain needed to increase its productivity. Other countries had on an average raised their labour productivity by 21 per cent over the past 25 years, while Bahrain’s improvement has been just 17pc.
Dr Mashal said by introducing technology, machinery and highly qualified employees, a company would increase its productivity and competitiveness.
“This productive and competitive economy is being shaped by the government through legislation and we now have the Labour Fund and the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA),” he said.
Dr Mashal said another pillar of Vision 2030 was fairness – to enable every individual, both Bahraini and foreign worker, to make a worthwhile contribution to society given the means and presented with the opportunities.
“The role of the government is to provide the legal and regulatory framework that ensures the protection of consumers and fair treatment of business owners, including foreign investors.
“This vision is not just for Bahrainis or the government, it is also for foreign workers that want to continue working here.