Movements of Labour
Frustrations with trade liberalisation have in the past led to the conclusion that in the case of the Arab countries economic integration should rather start with movements of factors of production—labour and capital—than with merchandise trade. This view appeared to have empirical support in the 1970s and 1980s, when inter-Arab migrations reached their maximum intensity. At that time, migration was viewed as bringing about a new Arab social order (Ibrahim, 1982) through its impact on family structures and its opening the possibility of capital accumulation for the middle and lower income classes of the sending countries. But this vision was soon aborted: Iraq, a major receiving country, became embroiled in an extended and bloody conflict with Iran, while oil prices collapsed in 1985 precipitating expenditure cuts in all major oil-exporting countries. Then, in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and some of the major senders of migrant labour—notably Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Yemen—aligned themselves in support of Saddam Hussein. The reaction was immediate and radical: Saudi Arabia expelled approximately 800,000 Yemeni workers before the end of the year, having cancelled the rule that allowed Yemeni nationals to enter the kingdom without a visa and work without a sponsor (Ayalon, 1990, 725). In addition, 200,000 Jordanians, 150,000 Palestinians, and nearly all Sudanese were effectively expelled from the kingdom (Richards and Waterbury, 2007). In Kuwait, half of the Palestinian population, estimated at 400,000 before the invasion, either fled or was expelled. The rest were also gradually pushed out, and by 2012 the Palestinian population of Kuwait was estimated to be barely 80,000.
In fact, the relative importance of other Arabs in the total expatriate population in the Gulf had been declining systematically even before 1990 as shown in Tables 11.1, 11.2 and 11.3.
table 11.1 Arab share inforeign populations 1975-2015
sources: for 1975 to 2004: KApiszEwsKi, 2006; for 2010/15: European University institute, migration policy centre, gulf labour markets and migration database (glmm database—http://gulfmigration.eu/glmm-database/).
table 11.2 Estimates of the number offoreign nationals (Arab nationalities), by country of residence in Gcc member countries (2010-2014)
Figures for migrants in the GCC may be overestimated due to the inclusion of a large share of Gulf-born (second and third generation) non-nationals.
Palestinians are holders of travel documents.
Some of the figures quoted are unverifiable estimates. Therefore, they should be taken as indicative only and should not be used for statistical purposes.
Unless stated otherwise, receiving countries’ estimates are from relevant tables in the pop section of the eui Migration Policy Centre, glmm database.
Estimates of family dependents: in the absence of any indication of the ratio of worker to family dependents in the uae, we use data available for Kuwait in 2012: 2.4 workers per family dependent. Estimates of Egyptians (total): 968,000 + (968,000/2.4) = 1,371,000.
(e) Snoj, J. (2015)‘uae’s population by nationality’ (Doha: bq Magazine) April 12.
Table as of December 15, 2015.
table 11.3 Total population andpercentage of nationals and non-nationals in Gcc countries (2010-2015)
Unless stated otherwise, the source is eui Migration Policy Centre, glmm database.
Kapiszewski has pointed to the political activism of early Arab migrants and to the pan-Arab beliefs that they entertained:
Many young Arabs regarded borders in the Middle East as artificial lines imposed by Western imperialists, and, consequently, expected them to be eliminated. Another popular pan-Arab view, that of a single Arab nation in which labor “circulates” freely, was also rejected by the Gulf governments for security reasons. Yet another problem was related to the regional distribution of the oil-generated wealth. Whereas the oil- producing countries which preferred to retain that wealth began to link the entitlement of oil revenues to state sovereignty, poorer states increasingly stressed their Arab identity as a good reason to demand their share in the revenues: Iraq even used the oil-related arguments as a justification to invade Kuwait in 1990.
KAPISZEWSKI, 2006, 6-7
Such sentiment has not dissipated to this date and is very central to the Arab civil war.
The declining importance of Arab migrants is even more striking when viewed in the context of growing total expatriate numbers. From the point of view of the composition of their populations, cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha have effectively become South Asian. The lack of a preference for other Arabs—or even positive discrimination against them—has been a huge lost opportunity for regional economic integration, including from the point of view of trade ties and capital movements (which migration would have facilitated). But the attitude of the Gulf countries has, if anything, shifted in the opposite direction: increasingly some of the Gulf States have tended to deprive even large groups of citizens of their nationality, in order to punish dissidents.