Bahrain has witnessed a sharp decline in employment growth among foreigners, from eight per cent in the first quarter of 2013 to 2pc between January and March this year.
It means employment growth among Bahrainis has overtaken that of expatriates for the first time in almost two years. New figures show there were 153,525 Bahrainis in work at the end of the first quarter of this year, an increase of 3.9pc from the same quarter last year.
Meanwhile, the foreign workforce reached 508,002 in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 1.6pc in the same period last year.
It is the first time since the second quarter of 2012 that employment growth has been higher for Bahrainis than foreigners.
That is largely due to the steady decrease in expat employment growth, with employment growth among Bahrainis remaining steady at 4pc for the third consecutive quarter.
Total employment growth was 2pc in the first quarter of this year, down from 7pc in the same period last year – and much lower than its peak of 17pc in the first quarter of 2009.
The figures are included in the latest data released by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), which show the average monthly wage for Bahrainis in the first quarter was BD375 in the private sector and BD659 in the public sector.
They also reveal it cost BD302 more to hire a Bahraini than a foreigner in construction, trade, hotels, restaurants and small-scale manufacturing between January and March – an increase of BD3 compared to the same period last year.
A total of 35,315 expat permits – including 27,176 work permits, 6,955 for dependants, 320 for investors and 864 for temporary workers – were issued by the LMRA in the first quarter of 2014.
Most new work visas were issued in the construction sector (31pc), followed by the retail sector (24pc) and manufacturing, hotels and restaurants (12pc), while 8,794 expats applied to switch employers between January and March.
“The number of visa renewals increased from 39,405 in the first quarter of 2013 to 49,193 in the same quarter this year,” states the LMRA’s Labour Market Indicators report.
Most applications to change jobs last year were made by heavy vehicle drivers, followed by supervisors, sales managers and executives.
Meanwhile, the total number of visas terminated in the first quarter of this year was 27,298, of which 22,855 were for regular workers, 30 for investors, 411 for temporary workers and 4,002 for dependants.
The figures cover all civilian personnel employed in the private and public sectors, those registered with the Pension Fund Authority, the self-employed and domestic workers.