For more information

Ryszard Cholewinski
ILO Senior Migration Specialist for the Arab States

Sophia Kagan
Chief Technical Advisor
FAIRWAY project

Igor Bosc
Chief Technical Adviser
Work in Freedom

Zeina Mezher
National Project Coordinator
Work in Freedom and Migration (Lebanon)

Suha Labadi
National Project Coordinator
Work in Freedom and FAIR Project (Jordan)

Abed Al Jawad Al Natsheh
National Program Officer
FAIRWAY (Jordan)

Annas Shaker
Technical Officer (Kuwait and Bahrain)

Labour Migration

Migrant workers dig into a field in Doha, Qatar (© ILO)
The Arab States region is one of the main destination regions globally for migrant workers, and the numbers have increased substantially in recent years. The proportion of migrant to local workers is amongst the highest in the world. Many of these migrant workers are low-skilled workers, in sectors such as construction and hospitality, or domestic workers. Migrant workers contribute substantially to the development of their destination countries and send vital remittances to their families and communities, but many of them face a number of decent work challenges. The ILO and its constituents are working to address these challenges through the ILO's Fair Migration Agenda, adopted in 2014, and in accordance with the Resolution and Conclusions concerning fair and effective labour migration governance, adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2017. See more

Facts and figures

  • In 2019, according to the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs (UNDESA), there were 35 million international migrants in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and Jordan and Lebanon, of whom 31 per cent were women.
  • The ILO estimated that in 2017 the Arab States hosted 23 million migrant workers, with 9 million (39 per cent) women migrant workers. The majority of these workers are from Asia, with a sizeable number also coming from Africa, especially Egypt, and increasingly from East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda).
  • Migrants in the six GCC States account for over 10 per cent of all migrants globally, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates host respectively the third and fifth largest migrant populations in the world.
  • Foreign nationals make up the majority of the population in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (and more than 80 per cent of the population in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates).
  • The proportion of non-nationals in the employed population in GCC countries is among the highest in the world with an average of 70.4 per cent, ranging from 56 to 93 per cent for individual countries. Migrants in the Arab States remitted over USD 124 billion in 2017, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia ranking second and third globally in terms of remittance outflow (after the United States), and Kuwait and Qatar ranking eighth and tenth respectively.

Sources: UNDESA, ILO, Gulf Labour Markets, Migration and Population (GLMM) Programme