Ambivalent Anxieties of the South Asian-Gulf Arab Labor Exchange
Working Paper No. 2005-02. 41 pages.
This paper focuses on one unique feature of rapid social and economic transformation of the Arabian Gulf region: its unusually heavy reliance on expatriate labor from South Asia. While concentrating on issues affecting the whole region, this essay presents more specific information on two of the regions most heavily implicated in this labor exchange: the emirates of Sharjah and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and the state of Kerala in South India. Despite worries amongst Arabs about the loss of national self-sufficiency and despite understandable complaints of labor exploitation from South Asians, the ambivalent anxieties unleashed by the intensive utilization of South Asian labor in the Gulf are likely to be a permanent political economic product of the labor networks, remittances and capital flows emanating from a still emerging Arabian Sea economy.