As economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states slowly pick up pace and the pandemic seems to be under control, there may not be the large-scale fleeing of expatriates from the region, as predicted earlier by some media outlets.

Nevertheless, according to an Oxford Economics report, Kuwait “may have decisively turned their backs on expats”. In November, Kuwait passed legislation on trimming its expatriate workforce, which the report said could lead to a 12 percent decline in the number of expatriates in Kuwait. On the other hand, the drop in Saudi expat jobs has been lower than estimated, at 3.8 percent, excluding domestic workers.

According to the report, expats are still expected to leave in significant numbers across the six nations comprising the GCC. As economies slowed and then contracted during the coronavirus pandemic, many expatriates whose residency visas were linked to jobs that had disappeared were forced to head home.

The report noted that foreigners are likely to return to Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi, although it will probably take a couple of years for numbers to reach pre-pandemic levels. In the UAE, where there have been significant cuts to the workforce announced across key sectors, the expat population will likely decline in line with previous estimates of around 10 percent.

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