Migrant Labour in the Persian Gulf

Edited by Part of the Georgetown University, Center for International and Regional Studies, School of Foreign Service in Qatar series
June 2012 9781849042109 276pp


In some countries of the Persian Gulf as much as 85 to 90 per cent of the population is made-up of expatriate workers.Unsurprisingly, all of the concerned states spend inordinate amounts of their political energies managing the armies of migrant labourers employed in their countries, and there are equally fundamental social, cultural, and economic consequences involved as well. Despite the pervasive and farreaching nature of the phenomenon, to date there have not been any comprehensive, easily accessible studies of labour migration in the Persian Gulf. Migrant Labour in the Persian Gulf is a multi-disciplinary examination of the manifold causes, nature, processes, and consequences of labour migration into the Persian Gulf. It critically analyses the effects of migration for native communities, looking at the types and functions of informal and at times formal bi-national and multinational networks that emerge from and in turn sustain migration patterns over time, the role and functions of recruitment agencies, and the values, behaviours, and plans of migrants workers prior to and after setting off for the Persian Gulf.


‘An excellent reader on the sensitive and often thorny issue of labour migration in the Gulf states. … the book has great originality and will make an important contribution not only to Gulf studies, but to migration studies in general, and perhaps even scholars of international political economy.’ — Christopher Davidson, author of Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond and Power and Politics in the Persian Gulf Monarchies

‘A superb sample of the growing literature on the Gulf. The authors bring Gulf migration into focus taking us into the lives of the millions who migrate to the Gulf and revealing the complexity of the processes and contexts of migration .  The reader accompanies migrants into the streets and workplaces to feel the resultant shifts in family, community and self.’ — Sharon Nagy, Ph.D.  Department of Anthropology, DePaul University.

‘A most timely and long overdue publication on one of the most important and unique regions in the world for labour migration, this brilliant collection of well-established local and international scholars analyses legal, economic, political, cultural and human rights issues with critical, rich, visualizable accounts of the migrant presence in the region.’ — Ray Jureidini, Institute for Migration Studies, Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon.

Migrant Labour in the Persian Gulf presents a holistic, interdisciplinary picture of migration to the Persian Gulf in a single volume. It gives a balanced view of what is gained and sacrificed by migrants, Persian Gulf governments, and native Arabs as a result of this system. The book is well researched and does a good job of exploring the complications and nuances of labor migration in the Persian Gulf.’ — Lily Smith, Global Policy Journal

‘A ground-up and sociological perspective that is a welcome reprieve from reams of statistical data often found in policy-oriented reports on migration. The multiple analytic approaches, combining insights from economics, sociology, anthropology, and political science is admirable and a model to be emulated in any future synthesis of labour studies not only in the Gulf but throughout the MENA region.’ — Mediterranean Politics


Mehran Kamrava is Professor of Government at Georgetown University in Qatar, and Director of the Iranian Studies Unit at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies. His books on Iranian and Middle Eastern affairs include Inside the Arab State and Triumph and Despair, both published by Hurst.  

Zahra Babar is Associate Director for Research at the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. Previously, she served with the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Development Program. Her current research interests include rural development, migration and labor policies, and citizenship in the Persian Gulf states. Babar’s recent publications include ‘The Enemy Within: Citizenship Stripping in the Post Arab Spring GCC’ (Middle East Journal, 2017), as well as Arab Migrant Communities in the GCC, Food Security in the Middle East (co-edited with Suzi Mirgani), and Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf (co-edited with Mehran Kamrava).

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