Foreign labour and labour migration in the small GCC states

Andrew Gardner
Content Type
Policy Brief
Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
Although large-scale migration to the Arabian Peninsula is often framed as a new or novel situation, an examination of historical accounts reveals cities, ports and peoples intricately connected with the greater Indian Ocean world for more than a millennium. For much of the past century, however, migration to the region has been organised through the kafala , or sponsorship system, which is almost ubiquitously posited as the causal force behind current labour-related problems. The right to work in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states has been globally commodified, and low-skilled workers often pay $2,000 or more for the right to work in Arabia for a year or more. Low-skilled workers in the GCC states are best conceptualised as emissaries of a larger household livelihood and investment strategy. Living quarters for such workers in Arabia are often substandard, and the enforcement of existing laws, regulations and policies is often poor to inadequate. Youthful and worldly local populations have a demonstrably different attitude to labour rights and issues than their predecessors and elders, and these growing trends should be broadly supported through policy planning in the region. The enforcement of existing regulations and labour laws should also be supported where possible. Finally, the overall number of international organisations now focused on labour rights in Arabia provides ample opportunity for policy planners to seek collaborative relationships that might strategically yield significant benefits.
Economics, Human Rights, Migration, Labor Issues
Political Geography
Middle East, Arabia