Employment and Entitlement in the GCC: A World-Systems Analysis of Disrupted Development | Ifi Working Paper
Working Paper | November 2013
Employment and Entitlement in the GCC: A World-Systems Analysis of Disrupted Development by Michael Coulom
Much has been written about the ingenuity of the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, from their physical and economic growth since the 1970s, to their political weathering of the Arab Uprisings that began in 2011, and to their ever-increasing political power in the Arab World. Conversely, human rights groups have criticized the GCC for human rights abuses, particularly in regard to migrant workers and enforcing international labor laws. Development in the Gulf has been praised for its impressive speed and seeming proficiency, while simultaneously condemned for the very practices that aim to transform the region into a global economic hub. The reality is that behind the steel, glass and capital transfers of the Gulf’s development lies the labor force that solders the steel and staffs the growing service industry. The majority of these employees are migrant workers, immigrating for both white and blue-collar positions in the GCC’s few major industries. Whereas some researchers have examined the growing economies of the Gulf, and others the myriad human rights abuses that occur there, few have analyzed entitlement programs and labor migration patterns of the Gulf from a theoretical standpoint. This paper serves as a starting point for theoretical analysis of Gulf economic and social development from the perspective of Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory. The paper posits the states of the GCC as semiperipheral and characterized by a mix of capital and labor intensive industries. The unique combination of surplus capital and a labor deficit epitomizes the GCC’s challenging path towards the global core. GCC labor and state policies collectively foster a dependence on unproductive labor that, on one hand, produces short term profits, while on the other perpetuates the region’s labor crisis and inhibits the GCC’s transition to a majority core-like economy dominated by capital intensive industries.