Middle East Tries to Expunge Foreign Workers

Stereotypical Saudi Arabian Man Standing on the Saudi Arabian Flag in the Shape of Saudi Arabia

In October last year¬†Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi, one of the Middle East’s most prolific and popular tweeters, caused a Twitter storm by suggesting moves to allow expatriates to apply for citizenship. The reaction, to put it mildly, wasn’t positive.

Many of the Gulf nations have been trying to curb their over-reliance on foreign workers by limiting the number of years foreigners are allowed to stay, making it difficult for them to bring their families and limiting their privileges. For instance, in Kuwait foreigners aren’t allowed to use public hospitals during the morning. Kuwaitisation, Saudisation and a general Arabisation have become more prevalent as these nations look to hire Arab-speaking, cheaper employees.

This all came to a head last month, when a Kuwaiti MP called for a five-year limit to foreign workers’ stays in the country. This, however, would only apply to blue-collar jobs, with top-level professionals like doctors and lawyers unaffected.

Thankfully for many expats who fit this description the Government Manpower and Restructuring Program (GMRP) rejected the proposal this week, stating that many sectors simply can’t function without expatriate workers. This may, however, be only a momentary reprieve, and the Arabisation policies across the Middle East look set to continue.