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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2015 Abstracts

Regulating Migrant Labor Markets in the Gulf Cooperation Council

Sami Safiullah, University of Utah

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates almost exclusively rely on foreign and migrant workers to supply the demand for work in their private sectors, particularly in the construction and domestic labor industries. These countries primarily utilize imported labor from emerging economies in South and Southeast Asia including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Although there are some attempts on the government level in both labor-host and labor-home countries to regulate how these workers are distributed and treated, there are many other factors that contribute to this regulation on a much stronger level. These include consumer preference in the GCC host countries, private employer minimum wage caps, and recruiting agency actions in the labor-home countries. This paper examines these factors in depth, beginning with the private employers who operate under the Kafala temporary-worker system, and then studying the private recruitment agencies in the laborhome countries who survey and assess their worker supplies to meet demands in the GCC private sectors. To better understand this complex and nuanced dynamic, and how it impacts the migrant labor market on both microeconomic and macroeconomic levels, the paper will then discuss the relationships these private entities have with both labor-host and labor-home governments, individual contract-bound workers from the labor-home countries, and consumers in the labor- host countries. After considering a proposed minimum-wage model from the Philippines and a tourism expansionary policy from Sri Lanka, the paper will summarize a series of proposals for how to more effectively regulate this migrant labor market in order to provide workers with higher quality and humane provisions while working abroad, without adversely affecting the strict financial decision making processes in the GCC private sector, and the delicate relationships between these labor-host and labor-home governments.