July 3, 2013
The expat population in the Arabian Gulf countries — defined as being a citizen from another country, thereby requiring a work visa — accounts for at least 31% of their combined populations, as reported yesterday in Arab News.
By the numbers, 12.5 million out of 40 million are foreign workers:
27% in Qatar
30% in Saudi
63% in Kuwait
62% in Oman
80% in the UAE
“The [greater] expatriate work force in the Gulf can be divided into Arabs [from other countries] and Asians. They flock from their poor native countries to the wealthy Gulf in search of employment and better living conditions. The large-scale recruitment of an expatriate work force was justified by the need for executing huge development projects in the fast-growing GCC countries. Another factor was the willingness of expatriate workers to undertake hazardous jobs with lower wages that Gulf citizens refuse to do.”
Is the dependence on a foreign work force a problem? While living in the UAE as an American expat, I observed that expatriates found it difficult to integrate into the local culture, primarily due to Muslim customs. The country’s nationals also demonstrated reluctance to integrate expatriates into their close society. They rightfully questioned the erosion of their social values and an increase in crime rates due to the population imbalance.