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Will Possible Labor Policies by Gulf Countries Affect Remittances to South Asia?

Ceren Ozer's picture

My entry last week gave a quick profile of the South Asian overseas workers and discussed the crucial role of remittances received from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman) for South Asian economies. Today I’d like to discuss whether changes in the labor market policies of the GCC countries could jeopardize job prospects for South Asian migrant workers.

Creating jobs for GCC citizens is already on the top of the agenda in some of these countries and is bound to gain more momentum with the youth bulge. Efforts to create jobs for nationals through the “nationalization of the labor market” have been further intensified as a response to the recent events in the Middle East. Across the GCC, additional policy measures are being announced highlighting the need to replace expats with nationals in private and public sector. These messages have been the strongest in Saudi Arabia, but also in the U.A.E. and Kuwait.

Will recent events in the Middle East Affect Remittance Flows to South Asia?

Ceren Ozer's picture

For countries with substantial numbers of workers in the Middle East, recent events have not only raised concerns for the repatriation and welfare of their citizens, but have also raised fears of a possible slowdown in remittances. Will remittance flows noticeably decrease due to recent events in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia?

For South Asian countries, remittances are among the largest and most stable sources of foreign exchange and their developmental impact have been remarkable. For example, in Nepal national poverty level has come down from 42% to 31% during 1996 to 2004, and to 21% today, largely on the account of remittances which finance household consumption as well as education and health expenditures. Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, were among the top 15 remittance recipients in 2009—with inflows being equivalent to 24% of the GDP in Nepal, 12% in Bangladesh, 8% in Sri Lanka, 5% in Pakistan and 4% in India.

Gulf States employ more than 11 million expatriate workers, an estimated 8 million or more from South and East Asian countries. Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, and Qatar are top destination for South Asian migrants and are main sources of remittance inflows. The table as well as the country profiles below demonstrates the sheer magnitude of migrant workers in the Arab Gulf countries and their contributions to the labor force; sometimes greater in overall numbers and proportion than the respective labor force in the countries.

Budding Economists Showcase Regional Cooperation

Dulanii Liyanahetti's picture

It was a cold evening back in 2004 when a few students and professors of Ramjas College of the University of Delhi got together and initiated an idea that would form the basis for improving regional cooperation among South Asian countries. South Asia has many things in common, and is affected by diverse sets of issues that require cooperation to solve. Under this premise, the South Asian Economics Students’ Meet (popularly known as SAESM) came to life with valuable contributions made by five leading South Asian Universities offering Economics Degrees; the University of Delhi in India; Lahore School of Management Sciences in Pakistan; University of Dhaka in Bangladesh; University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and Tribhuvan University in Nepal.

Celebrating Bangladesh and Nepal’s Progress in Achieving the Millennium Development Goals

Joe Qian's picture

The United Nations hosted the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in New York City last month, with the participation of over 120 global leaders from both developed countries and emerging markets. This year’s summit was an especially momentous occasion since it marks 10 years since the Goals were set into motion and begins the 5 year countdown to 2015 when the goals are to be met.

At the awards ceremony on September 19th, both Bangladesh and Nepal received MDG country awards for advancements towards the development goals in health indicators with India receiving a nomination for greatly increasing access to education.

We asked South Asia's Human Development Director, Michal Rutkowski about these achievements.

In Pursuit of the Golden Deer

Naomi Ahmad's picture

This is a true story…

It is the year 2005. 26 young Bangladeshi men are crammed on a small rubber boat. Floating on the vast Mediterranean Sea. The boat's engine had stalled days ago.

10 days without food or water. The men are faced with a choice – death from drinking sea water or the inhuman alternative of having to drink one’s own urine. The pain of watching a brother or a dear friend slowly and painfully starve to death is too much. One by one the men start looking at each other - wondering which part of a dead body would be edible. Another weakly searches for something sharp enough to cut out a chunk of his own flesh, before collapsing dead from hunger and fatigue…

This is what a group of young Bangladeshis faced in 2005, when they embarked on an illegal journey to Spain. Only three survived the ordeal and lived to speak of the horrors of those 10 days.

Costly Electricity May Still Be Cheap

Zahid Hussain's picture

The deep power crisis that Bangladesh is currently living through is affecting more people than the 40 percent population who currently have access to electricity. The reasons are simple.

For industries power outages increase production costs and the operating uncertainty that enterprises face. Losses arise from spoilage of goods-in-process and damage to machinery. Often the cuts in power supply cause production losses lasting beyond the duration of the outage. E-commerce and ICT cannot operate without reliable supplies of electricity. Mechanization of businesses is rendered ineffective, affecting productivity. SMEs rely on electricity for a variety of needs—lighting, refrigeration, grain mills, water pumping, food preservation and you name it. More generally, economic growth that creates jobs and enhances incomes requires electricity. Less and unreliable electricity translates into less and unreliable jobs. This is now a well established fact.

The million dollar question is what do we do to energize the economy?

Can Migrants Help in Post-Flooding Reconstruction in Pakistan?

Sanket Mohapatra's picture
     UN Photo/WFP/Amjad Jamal

A World Bank report released on July 30 finds that poverty in Pakistan fell by an impressive 17.3 percentage points between 2001 and 2008 (from 34.5 percent in 2001-02 to 17.2 percent in 2007-08). Three out of Pakistan’s four major provinces – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP), Punjab, and Sindh – saw significant declines in poverty during this period. The largest fall in poverty was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). According to the Bank report “high level of remittances, both foreign and domestic, seem to have facilitated” the decline in poverty in KP.

Pakistan saw migrant remittances reach a record $ 8.9 billion in fiscal year 2010, an increase of 14 percent compared to the 2009 fiscal year despite the global economic crisis (Pakistan’s fiscal year runs from July to June). The World Bank report says “Continued strong growth in worker’s remittances in the past few years has also contributed to improvements in the external current account balance” and “have facilitated improvement in the country’s external position”. 

The New Normal? South Asia Looks East

Dipak Dasgupta's picture

The world South Asia will face after this crisis is not going to be the same as in the past. The trend that is accelerating after the financial crisis is that of the “new normal”: the shift in traditional engines of growth from industrial countries to emerging markets.

The crisis is accelerating this fundamental change in economic order in which developed countries have to save more and spend less, while emerging markets, such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa begin to play much bigger roles in driving the global recovery. According to our estimates, by 2020, in just ten years---Asia may see its share of world GDP (in nominal dollars) climb to over one-third, replacing North America and the European Union as the biggest region. Underlying this is an expected sharp rise in shares of China and India, and indeed, that of all emerging markets may climb to nearly one-half of global output.

Is South Asia Moving Up?

Dipak Dasgupta's picture

The food, fuel, and financial crises during the last three years sent shockwaves throughout the world and its effects rippled across South Asia. It impacted growth, causing a reduction of growth by nearly 3% from the peak of 8.9% in 2007 to 6.3% in 2009, led to job losses, declines in stock market value, decreases in tourism, and increasing pressures on already weak fiscal, balance of payments, reserves and exchange rates.

I was based in New Delhi during the crisis, and the effects were palpable. For a moment, it looked as if confidence was ebbing---the construction cranes in Gurgaon (the fastest-growing township around Delhi) became silent, a young scholar at Delhi University ran a survey of what graduates might do as job markets became difficult, airlines ran half-empty and racked-up massive losses, jobs were lost heavily in diamond-cutting in Gujarat and IT firms stopped hiring in Bangalore, and people paused to consider the implications of such a dramatic change from the accelerating and heady growth of the previous years. But despite the circumstances, and thanks to strong and prompt government actions, confidence has swiftly returned, the region has proven to be quite resilient and a noticeable resurgence has taken hold.

New evidence reaffirms that migration is costly but still worthwhile for Bangladeshis

Zahid Hussain's picture

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) presented their Final Report on The Bangladesh Household Remittance Survey 2009 in a workshop held in Dhaka on May 12, 2010.  This survey collected data from a nationally representative sample of 10,926 migrant households.  The findings of the survey confirm most of what we know about migration and remittance based on smaller surveys and anecdotal evidence.  In particular, the findings are in line with the ones from the World Bank Survey (2007), which was smaller in scope. 

I summarize below what appears to me as some emerging stylized facts about the profile of Bangladeshi migrants and their remittance behavior.

Migrants tend to be young (32 years old on average) married males who have at least completed primary education (over 75 percent). They go to the Middle-East (nearly 73 percent) and Asia (22) with the help of relatives (55 percent) and intermediaries (45 percent) after obtaining a low skilled or semi skilled job contract (79 percent) for which they had to wait for about 6 months.

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