Published on People Move

Qatar's winning World Cup bid is a win for migrants

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I was in Dubai last week when the news broke about Qatar's World Cup bid. Qatar winning the vote to host World Cup in 2022 will produce significant increases in migration flows from, and remittance flows to, South Asia, East Asia and East and North Africa.
Qatar employs just short of 1.5 million migrant workers currently. It is the largest host country for migrants in the world: the share of migrants in the population exceeds 85%, for every adult Qatari national, there are 10+ migrant workers (see Factbook, my earlier blog post). Although it does not report data on remittances to the IMF, newspapers quoting Qatar Central Bank reported outward remittances approaching $7 billion in 2010. The sheer increase in the demand for workers for constructing stadiums and developing infrastructure is expected to result in huge migration flows from South Asia, but also from East Asia (the Philippines, but also China). Outward remittances will rise more than proportionately, first because wages will rise, and second, because the authorities will provide greater scrutiny to recruitment practices and working conditions for migrant workers.

In Dubai last week I attended a meeting of the World Economic Forum - the Global Agenda Summit. The WEF brings together some 600 global experts grouped under 70+ councils once a year, under the auspices of the Dubai Government (last year they also had a separate session at Doha). Migration is one such council. Skill gaps and talent mobility is another. Migration is very much a part of the global agenda discussions.

Prominent among the topics discussed (and welcomed) at our council was a proposal I have been working on with Bank colleagues, to create an open knowledge platform on migration and global development. The proposed knowledge platform will seek to highlight the benefits and challenges of migration for sending and receiving countries. It will also examine the size, drivers and development implications of internal migration within developing countries. More specifically, it will (i) provide an open platform to debate, discuss and reach consensus on migration issues; (ii) act as a knowledge broker at the global, regional and national level; and (iii) seek to attract multi-disciplinary practitioners to promote research and evidence-based policy making.

Btw, in conversations, local expats said that Dubai is recovering from the crisis of last year. The landmark Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is complete. Airport, shops and restaurants seemed full. Qatar's World Cup related spending will no doubt give a boost to the regional economies. Outward remittances from the UAE - officially no proper estimates are available, but unofficial estimates indicate remittances over $10 billion per year - are also likely to increase in the coming years.


Dilip Ratha

Lead Economist and Economic Adviser to the Vice President of Operations, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, World Bank

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