GIGA Forum

Labour Migration in the Gulf – Building Wealth on Precarity




03:00 p.m. (CET)


04:15 p.m. (CET)

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  • As Arab Gulf countries showcase their wealth, hosting international events such as the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the precarious conditions of labour migrants in the region are attracting more and more international attention. Strict migration regimes prevent the permanent settlement and naturalisation of immigrants, leading to temporary and irregular living situations. Recent research also shows that migrant workers have borne the brunt of the oil price decline since 2014, and that precarity varies along age, class, nationality, and gender lines. Reaching retirement, for instance, means the loss of access to work visas, putting pressure on migrant workers to leave. Nonetheless, migrants have made the region their home for decades.

    This GIGA event will analyse the structural asymmetries in Gulf countries’ labour markets, highlight the role of the “kafala” (sponsorship) system, sketch migrant workers’ strategies to navigate restrictions and maintain transnational family lives, and show how shifts in the region’s political economy impact them. Finally, it raises the question of what the consequences might be for future German and European cooperation with Gulf states.

    Speakers: Dr. İdil Akıncı is a Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the GIGA.

    Dr. Thomas Richter is a Senior Research Fellow at the GIGA.

    Gregory Bledjian is Head of the Middle East Division at the German Federal Foreign Office.

    Moderation: Dr. Christiane Fröhlich is a Research Fellow at the GIGA.


    Prof. Dr. Bert Hoffmann

    Lead Research Fellow / Head GIGA Berlin Office Editor GIGA Focus Latin America

    The GIGA is taking the coronavirus situation very seriously. Until further notice, all our events take place exclusively in digital space and Team GIGA is working from home. We are pleased to be able to offer you all GIGA products without restriction.


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