One of the most interesting themes that I got from this week’s readings is the labour migration throughout the Middle East as well as the labour influx from foreign countries. Not only did people from regions of surplus labour such as Egypt and Jordan move to “capital rich and labour-poor” Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and several other countries, but even foreign labour migrated to the Middle East such as Filipinos, Sri Lankan and even Koreans. This occurred from about the 1950’s onwards, and is still a major part of Middle Eastern workforces. In 1990, 68% of the workforce in the Gulf states were foreign workers.
The article that I found this week, in relation to foreign labour, concerns Qatar’s foreign labour and the abolishment of their “Kafala System” in order to both get on the West’s good side, as well as to prepare itself for the 2022 soccer World Cup. The Kafala system is used in the small Arab Gulf states, and is a method of monitoring migrant labourers in the region. It requires all foreign labours to have a sponsor, which is generally an employer. The system has been criticised by many people and organisations, including the West as well as numerous human rights groups.
The major talking point of the Kafala System is the exit rules in it. According to the current Kafala system, it requires the employer’s consent for a foreign labourer to leave the country, but fortunately this will be replaced. Hopefully other Gulf states will take Qatar’s lead and abolish the Kafala System due to the injustices that it has.
As previously stated, all of the Gulf states have a large amount of foreign labour, and all of them have their own issues with it. Another article I found focuses on Syria and their desire to reduce the amount of foreign workers, so to create job opportunities for local workers.
I just found it interesting how foreign labour plays such a big role in the Middle East, and it’s too early to say with confidence, but it looks like foreign labour will decrease over the coming few years, even though it has been such an important part of these Gulf States for over 50 years.