Tourism, migration and an expatriate workforce in the Middle East

Authored by: Kevin Hannam , Cody Morris Paris

Routledge Handbook on Tourism in the Middle East and North Africa

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138651920
eBook ISBN: 9781315624525
Adobe ISBN:


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In the Middle East, migration, employment, and labour market dynamics contrast with those documented in Western contexts including the widespread use of an expatriate labour force. In the Gulf States, in particular, the 1960s and 1970s brought a construction boom stimulating large in-flows of international labour covering a wide range of occupations and skill levels. The perceived dichotomy between highly skilled expatriates and lower skilled migrants is, in fact, more complicated as there are increasingly many highly skilled people moving to the Middle East from South Asia and there are also migration processes within the Middle East. Nevertheless, foreign workers comprise the majority of the total labour force in each of the Gulf States, while the local population relies on high-wage, public sector jobs as a benefit of citizenship. This division of labour is also manifested spatially within the urban landscape and across the residences and lived spaces of foreign and local populations. Elsewhere in the wider Middle East and North Africa region, migration often makes more reference to the historical migration of the population out of the country and into the West. Thus countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan, for instance, may reference their own highly skilled migrant expatriates that live and work in France but who return to visit their country of origin for visiting friends and relatives (VFR) tourism. This chapter attempts to provide a critical review of the literature regarding the role of expatriates and migrants within the Middle East in relation to the tourism sector. We begin with a broader discussion of the expatriate/migrant nexus before focusing on, first, Western expatriate behaviour and, second, MENA expatriate behaviour. We then examine the employment issues concerning expatriate and migrant labour in the context of the tourism industry. Finally, we conclude by arguing that the contemporary migration of workers to and within the Middle East needs to also recognise the figure of the refugee and consider wider geopolitical issues.

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