Pandemic Leaves Gulf’s Key Foreign Workers in Limbo

The combined shock of collapsing oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic is forcing the Arab Gulf monarchies to rethink their policies toward the majority of the region’s private-sector workers: expatriates.


The deepest peacetime recession since the 1930s is claiming millions of jobs worldwide, but in the $1.6 trillion Gulf economy job loss typically compromises everything from immigration status to the ability to open a bank account, rent an apartment or get a phone line, all of which often require employer permission. Comprising some 30 million people, virtually all foreign workers have no clear route to attain permanent residency or citizenship.

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