GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
The challenges of a dual-society: The interaction of workforce naturalization and immigration policies through the comparative case studies of Saudisation and Emiratisation.
Paper Proposal Text :
As a response to international and domestic developments, each of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states have undertaken steps to promote haweeya alwatani (national identity) policies within their borders. It is a profound shift from the previous era, where national identity mobilization was deemed as a threat and where collective identity was based more on religious or tribal loyalties rather than the question of citizenship. This type of “new nationalism” however raises multiple questions in light of the contemporary demographic constellation of the region, which is characterized by a heavy dependence on foreign workforce. The analysis argues that due to the uniquely high level of migrant workforce a so-called “dual-society” emerged in the GCC states. At the same time, this social, economic and political duality is strongly surrounded by questions relating to identity and nationhood.

Generally speaking, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries allow larger immigration of temporary labor migrants, however they have a rather restrictive approach when it comes to offering permanent status and citizenship to migrants. The numbers speak for themselves. As of 2015, 88,5 percent of the United Arab Emirates population consisted of non-nationals and only 11, 5 percent were nationals. Among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of nationals (67,3 percent of the total population), but even in the Desert Kingdom, 32,7 percent of of the total population consists of non-nationals.
(Data obtained from: Gulf Research Center: Total population and percentage of nationals and non-nationals in GCC countries. National statistics, 2010-2015). Socio-demographic imbalances within the labor market, however have impacts beyond the economic realm and they raise several interesting questions. How can nation building efforts succeed with a continuously shrinking proportion of nationals? What kind of negative impacts would workforce naturalization processes have for non-nationals?

This paper identifies and compares, through the analytical lens of constructivism, the interrelationship between immigration policies and nation building efforts of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. By applying a constructivist lens to the so-called “Emiratisation” and “Saudisation” workforce naturalization policies, the paper will shed light on how collective identity formulation policies interact with and influence national immigration policies. The aim of the present paper is to identify the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia’s nationalization processes and their medium and long term consequences on nation-building efforts. It is useful to view these policies are strategic decisions, which are aimed at convincing citizens to increase their contribution to the development of national economies and establish a stronger linkage between nationals and the leadership. Research into this topic holds practical relevance for stakeholders wishing to gain a more nuanced understating of nationalization policies within the Gulf Cooperation Council, and academic relevance in the assessment of the role of collective identity formation in nation-building policies. The analysis will use the method of process tracing with the utilization of national statistical data on Saudi and Emirati labor and immigration. The paper proceeds in the following stages: In the first section, I will introduce the nation-building efforts of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to trace long-term patterns of national identity formation. In the second section I will introduce both states contemporary immigration policies. At this stage, the analysis will not just focus on the role of foreign nationals in the economic development, but it will include a detailed overview of the lack of social inclusion. Furthermore, this section will highlight how foreign workers have historically been separated from the indigenous population. Based on these insights, I will intend to produce a comprehensive model to describe the linkages between collective identity formation and immigration policies in the post- Arab Spring regional order.