Migrant or expatriate workers continue adding to the labour force of oil-rich Gulf due to mega-construction projects, UN data shows. Al Jazeera posted this article dated 20 Dec 2018 elaborating on a situation known to all since the advent of oil.
Blue-collar migrant workers continue adding to the
labour force of the oil-rich Gulf, skewing long-standing efforts by its leaders
to increase the percentage of its own citizens in the workforce, data of the
UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) shows.
Figures released this month in a 78-page study, ILO
Global Estimates on National Migrant Workers, showed that the proportion of
migrants in the eastern Arab region’s workforce ballooned by 5.2 percent from
2013 to 2017, mostly in the construction sector.
Migrants now make up 40.8 percent of the workforce
across a 12-nation region that includes the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
This is a much higher proportion than other rich
regions that attract some of the world’s estimated 164 million migrant workers.
In comparison, migrants make up only 20.6 percent of the labour force in North
America, and 17.8 percent in Europe.
In Dubai, Doha and other Gulf
boomtowns, foreigners make up as much as 90 percent of workers, according to
older figures. The ILO did not have data on separate countries for this month’s
report; Ryszard Cholewinski, the ILO’s Beirut-based expert on migrant
workers, said that figures provided by Gulf governments are often
The increase in labour flows to Gulf states these past five years was driven mainly by mega-construction projects, including pavilions for Expo 2020 Dubai and the FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums being built across Qatar, said Cholewinski.
Demand has also grown for maids, gardeners, drivers
and other domestic staff, he added. In particular, more foreign carers are
being hired to look after a growing number of elderly folks in their homes, as
the Gulf population ages.
“The demand for male workers in the Arab
states explains the sharp increase in the share of migrant workers in this
region. Many of these workers are manual labourers, located mostly in the
construction sector,” Natalia Popova, an ILO labour economist, told Al
“Possible other reasons for the increase in
the high share of migrant workers may include the increasing demand for
domestic workers, both male and female, as well as for migrant workers in the
While data on nationalisation efforts is skewed due
to the sheer amount of blue-collar migrants, Gulf leaders have long sought to
boost the numbers of their working citizens, mainly in the white-collar workforce.
However, state-led hiring drives, with
such names as Qatarisation, Emiratisation and Saudisation, have had only
limited success, particularly in the private sector, according to the ILO.
“Many of these nationalisation policies are
not really having any impact. It’s one of the region’s big challenges,”
Cholewinski told Al Jazeera.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric on nationalisation in for example Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda. But in practice, this is
going extremely slowly.”
Al Jazeera contacted the UN missions of all six
Gulf states by email and telephone over the course of several days, but was not
able to get a comment on this issue.
While each Gulf nation faces different challenges
when it comes to nationalisation, many Gulf citizens loathe taking jobs in
private companies, which cannot compete with the pension plans, generous holidays
and shorter working hours in the cushy jobs-for-life enjoyed by civil servants.
This can lead to odd distortions. A visitor to
Dubai, the UAE’s tourism hub, can spend their whole week-long vacation being
served by migrant workers in shops, taxis and eateries, and the only Emirati
they meet is a passport-stamping immigration clerk at the airport.
Last month, the UAE launched it’s so-called Citizen
Redistribution Policy to temporarily shift civil servants into private sector
jobs. It also rolled out training schemes for Emiratis and online recruitment
In recent months, Riyadh has introduced rules
requiring shops to have Saudis in at least 70 percent of sales jobs. Expat
workers pay monthly fees for their spouses and children, employers pay similar
penalties for foreign employees.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030 agenda aims to overhaul the Saudi economy by
massively expanding the healthcare, education, recreation and tourism sectors
and slash the high unemployment rates for young Saudis.
John Shenton, chairman of the Chartered Institute
of Building’s Novus initiative, which supports construction jobs in Dubai, told
Al Jazeera that Gulf nationalisation schemes were bearing fruit.
In some state-regulated sectors, such as banking,
legal and financial services, the number of local staff has grown, Shenton
said. “If the goal is to get more Emiratis in the workforce then it’s
having some effect,” said Shenton. “However there are other factors
that will mean that those efforts may not be reflected in the data.”
These gains are dwarfed by the mass-recruitment of
foreign construction workers to build the skyscrapers, malls and artificial
islands for which the region is famous, he added.
“At a site level, the chaps in safety boots
and hard hats will always be from the subcontinent or South Asia,” Shenton
“At the engineering and supervisory level, the
skill set required can’t be satisfied by the number of local graduates. The
volume of work being undertaken and the discreet programme dates associated
with projects like Qatar 2022 necessitate our hosts resourcing from
Melissa Roza, a headhunter at a Dubai-based
recruitment firm, said nationalisation schemes had made gains in some
white-collar jobs, but that state-set hiring quotas and penalty fees were also
hurting these sectors.
Banks in the UAE often prefer to pay fines for
hiring foreigners than to cover the recruitment costs involved in hiring an
Emirati, training them up and meeting their high salary expectations, she said.
Executives have also found workarounds by hiring
migrants via outsourcing firms, which do not affect the quota count, added
Roza, whose name was changed so she could talk frankly on a hot-button
It is no surprise that in this article (see below) of ConstructionWeekonline, there is no hint anywhere that Indians, Pakistanis most interested in UAE property investments make up the most significant percentage of the populations of the respective GCC countries.
Since the advent of oil, the Persian Gulf countries have generally turned into modern states through concurrent processes of development. Rapid population growth in the GCC states has been timed by 10 at least, in the space of few decades through primarily a natural growth in the influx of foreign workers and not through their indigenous population.
It must also be noted that the same countries planning ahead are believed to be somehow facilitating investments of non nationals in any segment of their economies, presumably to counter all those consequences of oil peaking shortly and away from the Gulf region.
Of the top five most active nationalities on Dubizzle Property, the highest interest in the UAE property market came from Indian nationals, accounting for 22% of visits to the platform in 9M 2018.
Indians and Pakistanis are most interested in UAE property investments, Dubizzle said [representational image].
o EThis data echoes figures from Dubai Land Department (DLD), where Indian nationals accounted for more than 4,600 investments worth AED 8.6 billion in the first nine months of this year, representing the largest property investment segment in the UAE.
Pakistanis came in second with 14% of visits to dubizzle Property, followed by Egyptians (6 per cent), Jordanians (4 per cent) and UK nationals (4%).
Egyptians and Jordanians are the top Arab nationalities looking to invest in the UAE property market, according to dubizzle Property.
The two nationalities accounted for 10 per cent of property seekers on the platform in the first three quarters of the year.
This is in line with the figures recently revealed by the Dubai Land Department (DLD) concerning Dubai real estate transactions during the same period, where Jordanians were identified as the highest Arab investors with 644 investments by 548 investors, worth over AED 1.2 billion. Egyptians recorded 719 transactions made by 623 investors, worth over AED 1 billion.
China, France, UAE, and KSA were among the top 20 most active users of the platform, which is also in line with the DLD’s list of top 10 investors by nationality that includes UAE, India, KSA, UK, Pakistan, China, Egypt, Jordan, and France.
“The current soft sales market has made the cost of property ownership more attractive versus the cost of rent, especially for those considering staying in Dubai for five years or more. Long-term expats are increasingly making the leap into ownership as declining prices are now making this investment possible,” commented Matthew Gregory, head of property sales at dubizzle Property.
Migration crisis in Africa; challenges, issues and perspectives
This contribution is a synthesis of my intervention following the invitation of the organizers of the provisional programme of the 2nd edition of the International Conference of African Organisations and all members of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), that is held at the ‘Centre International de Conférences Abdelatif Rahal’, Algiers on 19 to 21 November 2018, bringing together several African organizations and personalities. It will be concerning all migratory flows; responsibility of which being shared between the leaders of the north (recent flows into the USA) and between Europeans and Africains.
Africa a continent with significant potential
Some countries including Nigeria, Gabon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Algeria, Libya specialize in oil, gas and raw materials and having experienced high demand and high prices in the world markets allowing them relative financial ease. Conversely, countries such as Benin, Malawi, Mauritius, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Togo, Mali, which are penalized in products that often experience deterioration in terms of trade, misery, famine and often internal conflicts and where the military expenditure budget in Africa is beyond human understanding to the detriment of the allocation of resources for development purposes.
The ten richest African countries in decreasing order are for the current GDP in 2017:
Nigeria with $581 billion,
South Africa with $276 billion,
Egypt with $264 billion,
Algeria with $170 billion,
Sudan with $124 billion,
Morocco with $121 billion,
Angola with $104 billion,
Ethiopia with $93 billion,
Kenya with $77 billion and
Tanzania with $52 billion.
On the other hand, the poorest countries are in decreasing order:
Burundi with a GDP per capita at $285,
Malawi with a GDP per capita of about $300,
Niger with a GDP per capita of about $364,
Mozambique with a GDP per capita of $382,
The Central African Republic, GDP per capita slightly higher than $382,
Madagascar, GDP per capita is about $401,
Somalia with a GDP per capita about $434,
Democratic Republic of the Congo with a GDP of about $444 per capita,
Liberia, with per capita GDP at about $455 and
Gambia with a GDP per capita at slightly higher than $473.
Security and stability of States must be based on democratic values
However, beware, we must be wary of the global GDP that veils the interprofessional (concentration of income) and interregional disparities, as for any comparisons only similar methods of calculation should be used. An example in 2014, The African continent was learning with amazement that, following a statistical review, Nigeria became the first African economy (ahead of South Africa) with a revalued GDP of $510 billion in 2013, compared to $262 billion in 2012. The GDP of South Africa was about $384 billion that same year. The magnitude of this re-evaluation of Nigeria’s GDP Following a statistical review is not an isolated case in Africa. However, these indicators are not enough to understand the situation in Africa. Also, in order to analyse blockages in Africa, the economic factors of political factors cannot be isolated. The joint African Development Bank – Global Financial Integrity (ADB – GFI) report highlights the fact that Africa has suffered from net outflows of the order and that the flight of resources out of Africa over the last thirty years – the equivalent of Africa’s current GDP – is curbing the launch of the continent. Thus, African leaders bear a heavy responsibility to their people and must promote the rule of law, good governance, therefore, the fight against corruption and tribal mentalities, the protection of human rights and the commitment resolutely in the overall reform, thus the democratisation of their society considering cultural anthropology avoiding the unconnected patterns of social realities. So is essential raises the problem of the security and stability of States which must be based on democratic values. In the region, we have seen profound changes in the Saharan geopolitics after the collapse of the Libyan regime, with consequences for the region. Also, the importance of the weight of the informal in Africa produces crippling bureaucracy, promotes corruption, varying by country, but generally exceeding 50% to 60% of the economic surface. For some countries, this sphere employs more than 70% of the workforce. According to the International Labor Office (ILO), this sector provides 72% of jobs in sub-Saharan Africa, of which 93% of new jobs are created, compared with the formal sector, which employs only about 10% of jobs on the continent. In the Maghreb per our study carried out for the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Paris – December 2013, the informal sphere in the Maghreb, it exceeds 50% of the economic area and employs more than 30% of the working population. The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing with the income gap reinforcing the inequities in wealth, education, health and social mobility. A Large and young population is not a handicap for a country, provided that this population is active and that it works in the formal sector so that its work can benefit the dependent population, the very young and the very old. Sadly though, 75% of the sub-Saharan economy is informal, and the education sectors in these countries are now affected, and the young people who come out poorly trained.
Globalisation and migratory flows
Immigration is now the entry, in each country or geographical area, of foreign persons who come for an extended stay or to settle there. The word immigration comes from the Latin in-Migrate meaning “to enter a place”. On the margins of this phenomenon is the dual nationality and nomadism, the notion of immigrant is based on the declarations of the place of birth and nationality.
The emigrant is the person who left his place in a country for another place in another, in order to settle there temporarily or permanently. A human migration being a displacement of individuals is probably as old a phenomenon as humankind. It is increasing in numbers by 2% per annum and measures stocks that include voluntary migration and forced migration. Internal migration to countries is also on the increase, but it is more about population displacement. Statistics show that huge migratory waves have recently declined, in favour of a trend towards immigration more related to brain drain and skills from developing countries, to the detriment of the latter. The characteristics of the current African migratory phenomenon are the diversification of the countries of provenance and destination, as well as the forms are taken by migration. It is estimated that the return of capital or remittances to the countries of origin from the host countries is at least equal if it is not much higher than the amount of financial assistance provided by the so-called “rich” countries to the poorer countries. If today most migrants move through regular channels, the migratory phenomenon is marked by a rise in the power of forced migration, mainly caused by conflicts and climate change. According to the most optimistic predictions, emanating from many institutions of the United Nations in charge of migration issues, by 2050, the number of displaced persons could jump to a minimum of 6 million/year. The cause being climatic disturbances, extreme weather phenomena, declining water supplies, desertification, rising sea level and degradation of farmland. According to international experts, it can also have several causes:
Economic: The search for a job, greater prosperity, better working conditions. This is the primary cause of current emigration;
Politics: The escape of an oppressive regime;
Religious: The hope of a more tolerant land of welcome;
Climate change: The taste for a different weather environment (generally milder, warmer and sunnier) and,
Fiscal: The will to be in a more favourable legal and financial context. This phenomenon plays particularly for the highest strata of society and in favour of tax havens.
In the era of globalisation where migratory flows are a concrete reality, migration has been globalised, with the same outcome of urbanisation and metropolisation of the world, demographic pressure, unemployment, information, and transnationalisation of migratory networks. The categories of migrants and countries have become more complex, with the globalisation of migration being accompanied by regionalisation of migratory flows. On a global scale, migration is geographically organised where complementarities are built between departure and reception areas. These correspond to geographical proximity, historical, linguistic and cultural links, transnational networks built by migrants, and smugglers (a form of slavery) that form a formal or informal space of movement, accompanied or not by institutional facilities of passage. Migrations have more than tripled since the mid-years 1970: 77 million in 1975, 120 million in 1999, 150 million in early 2000, near 300 million in 2017. This translates the mobility factors for different reasons. Gaps between levels of human development, political and environmental crises, producers of refugees and displaced persons, reduced transport costs, a generalisation of passport issuance, the role of the media, awareness that one can change the course of his life through international migration.
Global warming, whose responsibility lies mainly with the rich countries and some emerging countries, that could strike the brunt of Africa within 2025/2030/2040, will accentuate the exodus of its populations. These different factors accentuate the bi-polarisation of three worlds, the rich countries, the emerging countries, and the developing countries pushing them to this exodus.
The demographers consider that migration will be an essential adjustment variable by 2050, due to which 2 or 3 billion of additional individuals are expected on the planet, while the effects of climate change will probably be if not already felt and that some areas will no longer be able to feed any additional populations
A Technical Committee of the OPEC and 11 non-members are meeting today in Abu Dhabi to as put by the Emirates News Agency http://wam.ae/en/details/1395302626261. They identify ways and means of raising levels of conformity. obviously review and discuss possibilities to reinforce their year old decision to pursue and potentially overhaul their production cut so as to possibly reach their goal of price sustenance if not increase. Meanwhile, a US shale oil surge and the recent crisis among the world’s greatest oil producer countries are certainly not helping the cartel’s future. In Qatar, everyday life because of this crisis is turning sour by the day as witnessed by hundreds of migrant workers. This article on how Qatari companies send workers on unpaid extended leave in order to maintain their businesses alive whilst the Gulf crisis drags on.
Employees in these sectors have been asked to go on unpaid ‘long leave’ for two to three months, in addition to their standard 30 days of paid annual leave.
Some popular five-star hotels have asked several employees to take additional leave due to lack of business. Although official figures estimate 61% hotel occupancy, employees claim a far lower rate.
“Six restaurants in our hotel has been closed. We have more than 550 rooms but only a few are occupied now. Most of our restaurant staff and others have been sent on long leave. It’s in addition to the entitled annual leave. Some are sent on three months, others on four months of extra leave. But they won’t pay for this additional leave. Although they assure us, we are not sure if will be called back to work or the hotel will extend the leave,” said Leela, an employee of a five-star hotel. She is the breadwinner for her family back home in Sri Lanka and fears the new uncertainty in her job.
“My annual leave will be due in another two months. If the situation continues it will affect me as well. Our salary is only QR 3000. I can’t imagine being without a salary for three months,” she added.
Sarah, another hotel employee working as a kitchen aide said, “initially the hotel management asked which of us wishes to go on six months unpaid leave, due to lack of guests. Then later they told some employees to take three months extra leave in addition to our annual leave. Many have been sent on at least two months of unpaid leave.”
As the majority of construction materials are imported from neighbouring countries or brought in by land through those borders, this sector has also slowed down and some employees currently on annual leave have been asked to not come back for another two months.
“There are some materials in stock, but they’ll run out soon. It will take at least six months to bring materials from other countries and to find alternative routes. Some of our staff on annual leave have been asked to not return for a couple of months,” according to a quantity surveyor at a construction company.
Similarly, employees of some shipping agents have been asked to take at least four months unpaid leave due to lack of work. Their children and spouses have also had to leave the country. Most shipping and clearance agents work closely with their sister companies in neighbouring GCC countries.
“I’m given four months unpaid leave. My wife is not working so we can’t manage if I’m not paid. I have two children studying here. So we decided to go home and enrol our children at schools there. I will come back if things return to normal and if my employer decides to keep me on the job,” said Satish, an Indian expatriate working for a shipping and clearance agent.
Saudi Arabia unlike all its partners within the GCC and for many in the world would have been a terrible country, were it not for it to have been sitting on one of the world’s largest reserves of fossil oil. Moreover and, according to western common knowledge, it sponsors a strong feeling-filled version of Islam that is conducive to all sorts of redicalisation. And it denies its citizens whether nationals and / or resident expatriates many basic rights. Here is a good example in an article written by Ahmed Al-Arfaj of Al-Madina published on Saudi Gazette of July 2, 2017. It is about that other aspect of the country where a Saudisation means limiting all expatriates’ employment is being proposed. Expatriates accounted in 2014 for little less than 33% of the country’s 30 million inhabitants.
Qatar’s standoff with its neighbours is turning sour by the hour as the ultimatum of a month has elapsed. An extra 48 hours was granted though but it is believed would not alter anything in the blockaded country’s stance.
Meanwhile, it’s no secret for anyone that the oil and gas markets are at a critical turning point. Shale gas of the US has completely disrupted the dynamic in the market, brought prices crashing down. Natural Gas of Qatar as a palliative and / or a cleaner substitute would presumably anchor those prices at a level that would prevent any up movement.
THE situation of foreigners coming to work in the Gulf countries needs an in-depth study. They come and reside in the region physically but their hearts and minds always remain attached to their homeland.
I feel pity and compassion for these expatriates. They are not citizens who contribute to building a country that they feel belong to, but they do not await the day of departure or long for the joy of returning to their homeland.
Let me think aloud with you about who would come to work in the Gulf countries in 2018 and beyond. Why don’t we limit the employment contracts of foreign workers to only four years, not renewable under any circumstance.
If we do that we will have a range of benefits. The foremost among them is to provide opportunity for the greatest number of people to come and gain from working in our country. Another advantage of this is that the foreign worker does not get disconnected from his or her own country for a long period and become like a dove that lost the ability to fly and couldn’t master the crow’s walk. This has turned the foreign worker into an angry person. He feels incapable of building the future of his homeland and he feels alienated in a community to which he does not belong.
The third advantage is that we will put an end to the weapon of grace, which the residents often use if they happen to stay here for 10 or 15 years. We hear the employee repeat on every occasion, “I served you for tens of years.”
These are only some of the advantages. There are many others, but the negative aspects are but a few, such as some people objecting to the idea of terminating the employment contract because of the need to train new workers every four years. This is not a negative in my opinion; it is one positive side of the move because this allows for skill development and breaking the routine while updating both the trainer and trainee at the same time.
I hope no one would take my words for rigidity or racism. All I have offered here is regulatory measures that will preserve the rights of all parties. Such arrangements exist in most advanced countries in order to keep a balance in the relationship between the employer and employee based on a policy of no harm or damage.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has started imposing a new fee for expats’ dependents as of July 1 and according to local reports, all residence permits will not be renewed unless this fee is duly paid in advance.
This levy starts at $320 per resident’s dependent a year whereas private sector companies at twice that figure a month for each foreign worker. This will go on increasing each year feeding the state treasury in a bid to increase state revenues.
With this levy, Saudi Arabia could generate up to $693 million a year, an official has said because according to data from the Saudi’s National Information Centre, the number of registered dependents stands to date at 2,221,551, as reported by the local media.
Despite the government promising assistance to the private sector over the next four years, concerns that investment will be impacted by these costs on businesses are voiced.
Any kind of taxation on migrant labour populations remittances (funds that emigrant workers earn and transfer to their home countries) news from say the GCC Countries as well as its potential impact on all recipient countries was a hot subject after the world’s oil and gas prices started dropping back in June 2014. In 2013, 15 million expats in GCC countries send home $80b in remittance every year.Taxation of foreign workers’ transfers of money in the Gulf countries begun to be debated as a potentially viable solution to address the respective GCC government budget deficits. So for the sending countries, the short-term economic benefit of taxing this outflow of funds could be somehow taken as some sort of shortcoming by the receiving countries.
The MENA region in this matter is interesting because it holds the top sending as well as top receiving remittances flows in the world.
For instance, the top 10 remittance recipient countries in the MENA were in 2015 Egypt with $20.4 billion, Lebanon with $7.5 billion and Morocco with $6.7 billion.
The top sending ones were in 2014/15, according to the local media Saudi Arabia with about $40 billion, the UAE with $29 billion and Qatar with more than $10 billion.
In 2012, the biggest recipient country was India with $70 billion followed by China with $66 billion and the Philippines with Mexico and Nigeria with more than $21 billion each. A small remark in passing is that the size of remittance flows to developing countries is now much greater than any official development funding. The picture however is not that positive onto both sets of countries socio-economic life as briefly noted below:
Outflow of workers from any country normally causes labour shortages with direct consequences on the local economy
Large inflows of remittances could affect the local currency exchange rate to appreciate
The proposed article of the following World Bank report although fairly exhaustive is as detailed and as comprehensive as one would want and it does nevertheless lead us to believe that remittances flows one way or the other is a fact of life that whilst sustaining the global economy, it is an increasing trend that is not relevant only to the MENA and the OECD countries. It is world wide and increasing.
The number of international migrants is expected to surpass 250 million this year, an all-time high, as people search for economic opportunity. And, fast growing developing countries have increasingly become a strong magnet for people from other parts of the developing world.
The United States was the largest remittance source country, with an estimated $56 billion in outward flows in 2014, followed by Saudi Arabia ($37 billion), and Russia ($33 billion). India was the largest remittance receiving country, with an estimated $72 billion in 2015, followed by China ($64 billion), and the Philippines ($30 billion).
“At more than three times the size of development aid, international migrants’ remittances provide a lifeline for millions of households in developing countries. In addition, migrants hold more than $500 billion in annual savings. Together, remittances and migrant savings offer a substantial source of financing for development projects that can improve lives and livelihoods in developing countries,” said Dilip Ratha, co-author of the Factbook.
The report provides a snapshot of latest statistics on immigration, emigration, skilled emigration, and remittance flows for 214 countries and territories. It updates the 2011 edition with additional data on bilateral migration and remittances and second generation diasporas, and recent movements of refugees, collected from various data sources, including national censuses, labor force surveys, and population registers.
It finds that South-South migration is larger than South-North migration. Over 38 percent of the international migrants in 2013 migrated from developing countries to other developing countries, compared to 34 percent that moved from developing countries to advanced countries.
The top 10 migrant destination countries were the United States, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Russia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), United Kingdom, France, Canada, Spain and Australia. The top 10 migrant source countries were India, Mexico, Russia, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and United Kingdom.
Mexico-United States was the largest migration corridor in the world, accounting for 13 million migrants in 2013. Russia-Ukraine was the second largest, followed by Bangladesh-India, and Ukraine-Russia. The latter three are South-South corridors according to United Nations classification.
“There is ample research to demonstrate that migration, both of highly-skilled and low skilled workers, generates numerous benefits for receiving and sending countries. The diaspora of developing countries and return migration can be a source of capital, trade, investment, knowledge, and technology transfers,” said Sonia Plaza, co-author of the Factbook.