Forgot your password?

Back to login

Number of Indian workers headed to GCC drops by half
July 14, 2018, 2:28 pm

Once the sought-after destination by Indian blue-collar workers, the ‘golden’ Gulf appears to be losing its charm. According to sources at the Indian Protector of Emigrants office, the number of Indian workers headed to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states has dropped dramatically in the last couple of years.

From the more than 760,000 people who applied for emigration clearance in 2015, the numbers dropped to 510,000 in 2016 and to less than 370,000 in 2017. The fall by over 50 percent from the figures in 2015 could be due to several factors, but clearly many Indian workers no longer see GCC states as a welcoming employment destination.

Latest available figures from the Protector of Emigrants office reveal the steady decline in number of workers moving to the six-nation GCC bloc. Saudi Arabia, the top destination for Indian workers in recent years witnessed the sharpest decline with only 78,611 workers headed there in 2017, marking a steep decline of over 74 percent from the 306,642 who moved there in 2015.

Next highest drop in percentage of workers going to the Gulf was to Qatar, which fell 58 percent from 59,340 in 2015 to 24,759 workers last year. Oman witnessed a similar drop in number of Indian workers, with 53,332 traveling there in 2017 for work, against the 85,028 (-37%) who headed there two years earlier. The title of most-popular destination for Indian workers that the UAE seized from Saudi Arabia in 2017 with 149,962 emigrants moving there last year, was nevertheless a drop of 33 percent from the 225,512 who went there in 2015.

Bahrain saw a 26 percent drop in the number of Indian emigrants in 2017, with only 11,516 seeking the island’s shores for work, against the 15,619 who made their way there in 2015. Kuwait witnessed the smallest fall in percentage of Indian workers; still, the 56,380 who arrived here in 2017 represented a fall of 15 percent from the 66,543 Indian workers who came here in 2015.

One factor behind the decrease in number of Indians workers seeking employment in the Gulf is the steep fall in oil prices that began in mid-2014 and continued to late 2016. The precipitous fall in prices led many GCC states to adopt various austerity measures to raise revenues and rein-in budget overruns. Many of these cost-cutting measures have impacted low-wage earning blue-collar workers, who form the bulk of Indian emigrants to the Gulf, and forcing many to return home.

As part of the austerity drive, GCC states have introduced a slew of measures, including slicing the profligate subsidies that ensured fuel, water and electricity were available to citizens and expatriates at relatively very low prices. Most GCC states also decided to implement new charges, or to sharply increase existing rates, for expatriates to access many government services and facilities, including for healthcare, licenses, and residency as well as dependent visa charges.

In addition, employment localization initiatives have led to thousands of expatriates being retrenched and replaced by nationals in public and private sector jobs. One reason for the large-scale return of Indian workers from Saudi Arabia is the kingdom’s recent widespread enforcement of a ‘Saudization’ program that has seen thousands of expatriates being replaced by Saudi nationals in government and many private companies. In addition, the levying of a tax of Saudi Riyal 100 (US$27) per month on dependents of expat workers from July 2017, which is set to double to SR200 in 2018 and SR400 in 2019, has resulted in an exodus of expatriate families from the Kingdom.

Countries like Qatar, Oman and Kuwait have also tightened the screws on expatriates by retrenching foreign workers and replacing them with nationals in public-sector jobs, while also encouraging the private-sector to hire more locals. An interesting emigration trend is that while the number of blue-collar Indian workers, such as laborers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and drivers, have been falling in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of white-collar Indian workers headed to the Gulf, especially professionals in banking, finance and IT lured there by offers of higher salaries and perks.

Aside from a lack of employment opportunities and increased cost of living, there is another darker aspect that has dissuaded many Indian workers from seeking employment in the Gulf in recent years. Local Indian media is replete with harrowing stories of destitute workers who were mistreated in the Gulf and often had to return home with only the clothes on their back; of employees who were denied their salaries for months on end; of hapless domestic helpers who had to endure slave-like working conditions. Such traumatic narrations have dampened enthusiasm for the long-held view that a job in the Gulf is an easy way to raise ones’ family out of poverty.

However, for many people mired in financial privation, local media stories of physical abuse and fiscal deceit have not been a deterrent, as evidenced from the thousands who continue to seek a visa to what was once a ‘promised-land’.


Share your views

"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."

"Envy comes from wanting something that isn't yours. But grief comes from losing something you've already had."

Photo Gallery