GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Understanding the Nature of Labor Migration in Qatar
Paper Proposal Text :
Qatar is a country with the highest ratio of non-citizens in the world. Migrant workers are 94% of the total labor force and they work under some of the most restricted sponsorship laws in the Gulf region. While Qatar is trying to create a “national pride” through its large-scale project of 2022 World Cup, migrant workers’ situation remains restricted. Migrant workers who have immigrated to Qatar through a contract and a sponsorship relationship (Kafala) are incorporated into economic structure of Qatar, but excluded from the social structure without integration or assimilation. This paper will claim that international labor migration to Qatar cannot be only understood within the economic and demographic context such as revenues, investments, small population size and low labor force of Qatar. Political context of Qatar regime must be taken into consideration for the case of migrant workers. For instance, policymaking has been made by a small group of men; pan-Arab sentiments that are tempered by the elite anxieties over the intrusion of political ideologies from other Arab countries. These factors pave the way for the government to restrict the migrant workers’ access to specific areas.
National identity and Islamic concerns of Qatar should be taken into consideration for the analysis of labor migration issue. Migrant workers who are mainly coming from South and Southeast Asian countries (Nepal, India, Pakistan, Philippines) have been conceived as ideological threat to the Qatar society and also potential for cultural conflict. Besides those threats, migrant workers have been recruited because they tolerate lower wages, they tend to migrate without families and this decreases the costs of the companies, they are easier to segregate and they are easier to manage as compared to Arab workers. In order to prevent Qatar from being assimilated by the non-Qatari elements, state securitization policies have been adopted by the Qatari government towards the non-citizens. Restricting citizenship, bolstering national identity, underlying the development success of Qatar and symbols of national solidarity and applying ad-hoc strategies to regulate the migrant workers and less public regulatory strategies for non-citizens can be seen as the examples of the Qatar’s securitization policies.
Since labor migration issue is a multi-faced one, it requires extensive research and coordination with international partners, global civil organizations, multinational corporations and workers’ home states. Qatar government as a rational actor needs to take serious steps to improve the working standards of the migrant workers as well as preventing their social exclusion from the society. While Qatar is trying to adapt itself to the 21st century economies, it needs to struggle with the social and political issues that affect the labor migration. As Qatar is one of the most dependent countries on migrant labor, it needs to develop a comprehensive approach rather than conceiving migrant workers as potential threats to the state security and national identity.


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Mednicoff, D, “The Legal Regulation of Migrant Workers, Politics and Identity in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.” Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf, ed. M. Kamrava, 187-217, London: Hurst & Company, 2012.