Pakistani guest workers in the United Arab Emirates


  • Ivan Szelenyi



migration, Gulf states, return migration, migration theory, neo-classical economics, new economics of labor migration


Utilizing new survey results and qualitative sociological findings the below paper analyzes the working and living experiences of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The paper demonstrates that while Pakistani workers’ working and living conditions are much worse than those of Emiratis or white expats, most of them have better earnings than in Pakistan. The research shows that return migrants in Pakistan are upwardly mobile in the social hierarchy of Pakistan. The paper faces two analytical puzzles. The first puzzle is that while direct incomes, job opportunities are better in the UAE than in Pakistan, nevertheless return migrants express dissatisfaction at varying but substantial degrees with their living conditions in the UAE due to hidden, not planned financial, social and emotional costs occurring during their stay. The second puzzle is that, though return migrants usually complain – often bitterly – about their UAE experience, nevertheless many return migrants hope to return to UAE if a new job opportunity is offered to them. Thus the paper using focus groups, individual interviews, quantitative analysis of survey answers and regression models what individual and/or household level mechanisms and factors play a crucial role in this mass return migration and its perception among migrants themselves?

Copy editor: Ildikó Kaposi