GCC mulls free movement for expat jobseekers

Gulf hydrocarbon producers are considering allowing their large expatriate community to move freely and work in any member state, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

Labour ministers in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which controls over a third of the world’s proven oil deposits, have almost completed a study on such plans and are due to meet before the end of this year to discuss it, the Saudi Arabic language daily Aleqtisadiah said, quoting GCC officials.

The plans benefit both the nationals and the foreigners residing in the GCC but some members fear allowing expatriates to move and work freely in any member state would hit their plans to find jobs for their citizens, the report said.

“The ministers are still studying the proposal to allow citizens and expatriates to freely move, reside and work in any member country,” Kuwait’s social affairs and labour minister Hind Al Subaih told the paper.

It quoted Fowzi al Majdali, Kuwaiti labour undersecretary, as saying that granting such facilities to the expatriates could “obstruct job nationalization programmes in the GCC.”

“GCC countries should conduct more studies on this proposal before it is approved…they should evaluate the advantages and disadvantages,” he said.

More than 20 million expatriates, mostly Asians, live in the GCC states—the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. They account for over 40 per cent of the group’s total population of about 48 million.

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