Online Event

Social protection in the Gulf countries: what rights can migrant workers access?

This event will launch a first-of-a-kind comprehensive report on migrant workers’ access to social protection across the GCC countries: Social protection for migrant workers in countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC): A regional mapping of provisions on paper and in practice – prepared by ILO, in collaboration with ODI and IOM.


Social protection is an often-overlooked aspect of workers’ wellbeing. It ensures access to healthcare and time off when sick or pregnant, fair compensation when injured at work, and financial security for workers and their families when employment ends, due to old age, disability or death.

Globally, migrant workers frequently have some of the lowest rates of access to social protection, due to both legal and practical barriers. Such challenges are clearly present in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, which has the highest proportion of migrants in the workforce of any region in the world.

Effective action to improve workers’ protection requires robust evidence on the current state of social protection provisions. Yet there has been a historic lack of data on migrants’ access to social protection in the GCC countries, making it difficult to understand actual coverage for migrant workers.

Organized in collaboration with ODI, this online event shared new findings of a first-of-its-kind ILO report on migrant workers’ access to social protection across the GCC countries - Social protection for migrant workers in countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC): A regional mapping of provisions on paper and in practice - prepared by ILO, in collaboration with ODI, and IOM.

In addition, we shared the findings of a 2023 survey (by ILO, ODI and NISER) with 1,000 Nepali migrant worker returnees from the GCC, which offers in-depth insights on each aspect of social protection and the factors enabling and hindering access to rights in practice.
While governments in the region bear the overall responsibility for ensuring social protection for migrant workers living and working in their territories, improved protection requires engagement from many actors - in the GCC and internationally - including: employers, country of origin governments, recruitment agencies, civil society, academia, trade unions and migrant workers themselves.

This event convened a high-level panel of actors and experts working on migrant rights in the GCC who shared knowledge on – and inform – policy reforms and advocacy in this space. It aimed to share new evidence and insights with the wide-ranging actors involved in supporting the rights of migrant workers.

This event was hosted by ODI in collaboration with the ILO, and with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). It builds on the project Extending Social Protection to Migrant Workers: Exploratory Research and Policy Dialogue in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries (ilo.org).

Speakers

  • Christy Lowe (Chair), Research Associate specialising in Social Protection, ODI
  • Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Senior Research Fellow (Migration), ODI
  • Lea Bou Khater, Social Protection Technical Officer, ILO Arab States
  • Luca Pellerano, Senior Social Protection Specialist, ILO
  • Patricia Barandun, Head of Section Migration and Forced Displacement, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
  • Shabib Abdullah Al-Busaidi, Social Insurance Expert, Social Protection Fund, Government of Oman.
  • Shahra Razavi, Director of the Social Protection Department, ILO
  • Steffen Hertog, Associate Professor in Comparative Politics, Department of Government, LSE
  • Tanja Dedovic, Regional Thematic Specialist on Labor Mobility and Human Development, IOM
  • Vani Saraswathi, Editor-at-Large and Director of Projects at Migrants' Rights Network
  • Zahra Babar, Associate Director for Research at CIRS at Georgetown University in Qatar.
This event has finished, watch or listen to the playback below: