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Studies 18 August, 2013

Foreign Labor and Questions of Identity in the Arabian Gulf

باقر النجار

​أستاذ علم الاجتماع في جامعة البحرين. حاصل على شهادة الدكتوراه من جامعة درهام في إنكلترا في عام 1983، وهو حائز على جائزة الشيخ زايد لعام 2009. له العديد من المؤلفات الأكاديمية، من بينها: الديمقراطية العسيرة في الخليج (2008)، والحركات الدينية في الخليج العربي (2007)، وحلم الهجرة نحو الثراء: العمالة الأجنبية في الخليج (2001). وهو خبير في مجتمعات دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي.

Introduction


Numerous studies have concluded that the large presence of foreign labor in the Gulf could eventually lead to a loss of national identity. Large concentrations of foreigners, composed of numerous ethnicities, constitute communities that are, in effect, less attached to their immediate political, social, and cultural surroundings than they are to their native countries in India, Pakistan, Iran, the Philippines, and other Arab states. Foreign communities in the Gulf have become practically autonomous, with distinct habits, traditions, languages, and cultures, and many remain closely linked to their native countries through their economic investments and remittances. Various attempts to grant immigrants the nationality of their adopted countries have not succeeded because of the general lack of social policies devoted to assimilating immigrants within the host societies. Ultimately, their links to their ethnic communities remain closer than those with the local society, with some immigrant groups having formed ethnic "ghettos" within the host countries, such as the Indian, Persian, Arab, and Chinese communities in the Gulf.

As a result of the immigrants' demographic weight, in comparison to the small size of the native population, immigrants have become quite visible and influential in GCC countries. In some cases, some immigrant groups are themselves larger than the entire native population. Beyond the question of numbers, however, the presence of immigrants has become even more significant in light of the vital positions they now occupy due to the current development models in the Gulf. The contribution of foreign laborers and experts is essential in all aspects of economic, social, and sometimes cultural life, and can even impact the internal political dynamics in the host countries.

 

*This study was originally published in the third issue of Omran (Winter, 2013, 109-123), published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS).

It was translated by the ACRPS Translation and English Editing Department. The original Arabic version can be found here.

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