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Volume :4 Issue : 13 1978      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

MIGRATION AND THE LABOUR FORCE IN THE OIL PRODUCING STATES OF THE MIDDLE EAST

Auther : Fred Halliday

 

         Apart from giving general statistics on migration and labour in the oil states, the author presents a close analysis of the specific effects of the oil boom on the labour importing and exporting countries and their economic development.  For better analytical results and the determination of these effects the author divided the oil producing countries in the Middle East into three groups:

a)     The Standard Developing Countries

b)    The Desert States

c)     The City States

         As a result of high increases in oil prices (1971-73) and thus the rise in oil revenues and capital surplus, the oil boom had considerable effects on labour composition in these countries and employment.  Low density of population in, any of the oil states made it necessary to import more and more migrant workers from other non-oil developing countries.  Migration involved changes in the social and political structures.  In many of these oil countries migrant workers became the majority of the labour force and with them new social and political problems emerged.  Yet, the nature of the oil industry did not create a proletariat in the classical sense (a very low percentage of labour force is directly employed in the oil industry) and the industrialization process grew at low pace.  The wage earning class grew elsewhere, in the services sector, administration and especially construction.  And here the author questions the capacity of oil in creating long-term employment opportunities.  Oil does not necessarily solve unemployment and underemployment problems in many oil states, while it can create what the author termed “welfare unemployment and welfare underemployment”.  On the other hand, the oil revenues strengthened the position of the ruling classes, (seven of the ten oil states in the Middle East are conservative monarchies), thus retarding any social transformation.  Moreover, due to their conditions, migrant workers cannot offer a transformation impetus.  They are allocated to the least rewarding forms of work, they are denied any political and social rights, get less paid than native counterparts, are very often subject to exploitation and oppression, are excluded from any organizational activities, and can be arbitrarily expelled if they pose any challenge or threat.  Migration is a characteristic of the capitalist economy, the author adds, also in the Third World.

         The author also establishes a relationship between the oil countries – labour importing states – and the labour exporting states in the Middle East.  He discusses the benefits and negative affects of migration on the labour exporting countries and the problems that result from labour export.  The policies which could control migration determine which migration is beneficial or harmful, but in the case of the poorer Arab states with a high number of population the benefits of migration are illusory.  He states three main benefits which such states could derive from migration, however they remain to be short-term ones: remittances of those who work abroad that help raising the standard of living and stimulate the domestic demand, skill acquisition and third, reduction of unemployment at home.  On the other hand, migration has also its long-term negative effects on the economies of such poor labour exporting countries.  Peasants leave their lands to work in the oil states which results in decreasing agricultural production necessary for coping with the needs of the ever growing population and has ill effects on the economy as a whole since these countries are mainly agricultural.  Second there is a constant drain of skilled and semi-skilled labour from the labour exporting countries, whose training policies and facilities are at the end only beneficial to the labour importing countries, thus retarding development in the labour importing countries.  Migration in its present form is a one-way street and this may have devastating social and political consequences on the whole region.  The author concludes by saying that in spite of the oil boom, the oil states have mainly remained service societies than industrial productive societies and he hopes that in the future more study and attention is given to these aspects.  Furthermore, and most important, the oil boom did not precipitate any social or political change in the oil countries.

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