Highly skilled expats look like they will escape the proposed five-year cap on stays for non-residents in Gulf countries.
The Gulf Co-Operation Council – a political alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain – is considering the limit on how long expats can stay because of worries about the long-term affects on the economy and culture of the current 15 million foreigners settling indefinitely.
Most of the workers are unskilled labourers from Asia, but many are better qualified and skilled professionals are needed to maintain and expand the region’s economy.
Although governments are keen to introduce the cap to stop numbers of unskilled numbers swelling, businesses are not so keen to lose an almost insatiable supply of workers happy to accept lower wages and standards than those from the Gulf.
Cracks are also showing in the determination of some governments to implement the plan.
Some politicians see Saudi Arabia as the prime mover behind the proposal – and note that Saudi has more to gain than them as the country is home to just over half of the expat work force.
Saudi Arabia has already ramped up a program to limit black market visa fraud and proposes a six year residency cap on expats as part of employment reforms in the country.
Qatar has already expressed that the expat system should be two-tier – with skilled expats qualifying for improved treatment ahead of their unskilled colleagues.
“The labour market strategy is based on retaining skilled expatriates in order to benefit from their expertise,” said Mohammad Al Ubaidily, the director of the legal affairs at the Qatari labour ministry.
“Visas are renewed by the interior ministry, but we stress the need to keep skilled foreigners in Qatar.”