Labor Markets in the Gulf and the South Asian Migration

Rutledge, Emilie (2018). Labor Markets in the Gulf and the South Asian Migration. In: Chowdhury, M. and Irudaya, Rajan S. eds. South Asian Migration in the Gulf. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 101–122.



This chapter considers the long-run relationship between South Asian labor and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s workforce composition and modes of operation. While overall the relationship has been mutually beneficial, drawbacks are apparent, a key one being the impact on indigenous human capital. South Asian labor, more than any other contingent—Arab, Western and others—enabled GCC rulers to institute a mode of ‘social contract’ which provided citizens with government jobs (sometimes sinecures), luxury lifestyles facilitated by cheap labor (within the domestic workplace and public spheres), and heavily subsidized migrant labor for their business ventures. The resultant strains—a highly overstaffed bureaucracy and little incentive for businesses to invest in labor-saving technologies—are now acutely apparent and the status quo is in need of a systemic overhaul.

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