Working and living conditions of migrant workers in the GCC
Since Qatar was awarded the hosting of the 2022 World Cup, a great deal of media attention has focused on the conditions of the foreign workers responsible for creating and maintaining the infrastructure of the modern Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)1 states. Some have questioned the Kafala system of foreign labour recruitment and local sponsorship in the Gulf, asking whether this system indeed represents modern indentured servitude (Shaheen and Gibson, 2015). Others have criticized the occupational health and safety of migrant workers in the Gulf, in response to the growing number of construction worker deaths in the region (Booth, 2013). Finally, the labour camps in which these workers live have come under criticism from the international media, especially after two BBC reporters were jailed in Qatar for investigating the conditions of these camps (Lobel, 2015). Yet, while a number of questions have been raised and an abundance of speculation has followed, we remain short on reliable empirical data as to the actual working and living conditions of migrant workers in the GCC (Gardner et al., 2013). This chapter seeks to make some progress in filling this gap by focusing on the views and words of the migrants themselves, and responding to questions on their economic and social welfare, attitudes towards work and their employers and relationship with the broader communities in which they live.
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