ABU DHABI // Migrant workers in Arabian Gulf countries generate up to US$80 billion of remittances each year.
And workers in GCC countries send about $30bn (Dh110.19bn) to India alone, which is more than the US’s total foreign aid budget, says Michael Clemens, a senior fellow and research manager from the Centre for Global Development in Washington.
At the labour mobility conference at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research yesterday, Dr Farrukh Iqbal, director for the GCC and Mena at the World Bank, said: “The GCC countries are major stakeholders in development and migration and there are many migrant workers in the GCC.”
Mr Clemens will talk today about “the effects of UAE construction jobs on Indians and their families; evidence from pooled international microdata and a natural experiment” at the conference.
“Here in the GCC, the workers send more money to India than the US sends foreign aid to the world, and who studies the effects on families of workers back home in India?” he asked.
“Children of these workers get better education and medical care back home. These families in India are very happy. These workers earn five times more than a guy earns in India and it’s very difficult to even double your income in India.”
Mr Clemens said “the UAE alone remits nearly $12bn to the rest of the world”.
“Nobody in the Gulf studies this. They study other aspects, like protecting rights of workers. I think this is the huge contribution to global development,” he said.
Mohamed Abdul Razack, labour minister of Mauritius, talked of his country’s “labour mismatch”.
“Mauritius is both a labour exporter and importer,” Mr Abdul Razack said. “The country suffers from a labour mismatch in that our education system does not always produce school-leavers with the skills required for the jobs available.”
To promote a realistic strategy of sustainable development and labour mobility in Mauritius “we concentrated on two key elements: firstly, we have heavily invested in training, and we benefit from the fact that our people are conversant in English and French, as well as other languages.
“Secondly, we have enforced high labour standards and foreign companies are confident that, from both a legal and administrative perspective, workers are treated correctly and are aware of their own responsibilities.”
Policymakers, ministers, scholars and experts from labour-sending and labour-receiving countries gathered for the two-day conference yesterday to share expertise and show commitment to increasing cooperation.
Across the world there are 900 million migrants, of which 200 million are international migrants and 700 million are internal migrants. This means one in every seven people on this Earth is a migrant, Dr Iqbal said.
“In addition, $400bn is the estimated total remittances in the world today. This number is higher than all aid provided, all foreign investment, indeed all other capital flows,” he emphasised.
A World Bank report shows remittance to the developing world last year totalled US$406 billion (Dh1.49 trillion), an increase of 6.5 per cent on the previous year.
According to the World Bank, the agenda for development economics 30 years ago was predicated on the acceptance of the view that labour mobility was simply a matter of moving from low productivity to high productivity but this is quite a primitive view now.
Migration is now seen as perhaps the most powerful driver of growth.