Social protection for migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries: A regional mapping of provisions on paper and in practice

Social protection is a basic human right for all, as enshrined in multiple international human rights, labour and social security instruments and agreements. 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.

Even though positive progress has been achieved, 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 for migrant workers, and the factors that determine the level of coverage afforded to them.

This report explores the de jure (according to the law) and the de facto (actual) access of migrant workers to nine areas of social protection across the GCC countries, and the factors that have facilitated or hindered the extension of such coverage. The report is the first of its kind to assess this topic in a structured and systematic manner, and includes a review of the relevant literature in both English and Arabic, a review of applicable legislation and regulations by country, and an analysis of 51 key informant interviews.