Review of National Social Protection Legislation and Legal Frameworks for Migrant Workers in the Gulf Countries

Extending social protection to migrant workers in the Gulf Countries

Social protection is a basic human right for all, as enshrined in multiple international human rights, labour and social security instruments and agreements. Social protection systems provide benefits for children and families, maternity, unemployment, employment injury, sickness, old age, disability, survivors, as well as health protection. Globally, social protection systems have seen impressive growth in recent decades, having now been established in virtually all countries.

However, coverage has not expanded equally to all types of workers, with migrant workers standing out as an important group continuing to receive lower levels of coverage. Such gaps are likely to emerge where migrant workers are unable to access social protection provisions in the host country on the same terms as citizens, lack access to benefits or contribution systems in their country of origin while working overseas, or lose access to benefits or rights that they have previously acquired upon changing country of residence.

The challenges of extending social protection to migrant workers are particularly evident in the countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), where migrants comprise between 76 per cent (Saudi Arabia) and 95 per cent (Qatar) of the workforce. Such a large share implies a need to better understand the current state of social protection coverage.

In this context, this report analyses the legal coverage of social protection for migrant workers among the six GCC countries. The report provides country-specific details on the legal provisions in place in relation to each of the nine contingencies. It also offers an overview of the legal framework for immigration and recruitment as a central element that delimits the protection environment for migrant workers, including the distinct provisions in place relating to domestic workers.