Figure 1. Private Unrequired Transfers, Middle Eastern Countries, 1988. Bar chart.
Figure 2. Private Unrequired Transfers per capita, Middle Eastern Countries, 1988. Bar chart.
Number of Arab Migrant laborers in the Gulf States There are some estimations of the number of migrant laborers in the Gulf States. Table 2 and Figure 3 show the number and the percentage of Arab migrant laborers in Saudi Arabia in early 1980's. As the chart says, Egypt sends the most migrant workers to Saudi Arabia. The sum of both Yemen is approximately 20% of total Arab migrant laborers working in Saudi Arabia, the second most number among the Arab countries. However, it is necessary to know that not all emigrants from those countries head to the Gulf States. Substantial portion of them go to Europe and other industrialized countries. Moreover, the Arab migrant laborers are minorities among the whole foreign workers in the Gulf States. Figure 4 shows the ratio of Arab migrant laborers to other foreign migrant workers in the Gulf States. In most of the country, the number of non-Arab foreign migrant laborers exceeds that of Arabs. Most of them come from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, and other Asia countries. Table 2. Estimates of the Numbers of Arab Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, Early 1980s.
Figure 3. Estimates of the numbers of Arab Migrant Labors in the Gulf States, early 1980s. Pie chart.
Figure 4. Estimates of Arab and Other Foreign Migrant Workers, ca. 1980. Bar chart.
Transition of Workers' Remittances Transition of workers' remittances show the trend of labor migration in Yemen. Figure 5 and figure 6 are the amount of private unrequired transfers and worker's remittances of Yemen, provided by IMF and the World Bank, respectively. The entry of private unrequired transfer may contain elements other than workers' remittances. However, both charts show similar trends. The workers' remittances was minor in both countries in the early 1970's. The amount, however, dramatically increase in North Yemen (YAR) through the decade and come to the peak in the late 1970's. After that time, the amount is gradually going down, though it continues to fluctuate. As for South Yemen (PDRY), the amount of workers' remittances is quite stable if compared to that of North Yemen. The amount of the remittances gradually increases through 1970's and culminates in the middle of the 1980's. After that time, it begins to fall toward the end of the decade. Figure 5. Private Unrequired Transfers, Yemen 1973-92. Graph.
Figure 6. Workers' Remittances, Yemen, 1973-93. Graph.
The difference between the two countries can be explained by the situation of each country. For example, the government of South Yemen restricted the number of emigrant laborers from 1973, because of the shortage of labor force caused by extensive scale of migration. It may be true that the stability of the workers' remittances in the South reflects the restriction of the migration by the government. The difference between the character of migrant workers from the North and the South might be one of the reasons for the difference of the transition of workers' remittances. It is said that the people of the South Yemen tend to get into business for themselves in the receiving countries while North Yemenis are employed by companies or working at construction sites. Therefore the economic situation of the workers from South Yemen is more stable in the receiving countries, and their number does not fluctuates, though it has not been proved by statistical data. Economic Transition One of the most important factors which decides the flow of labor migration is the economic conditions of the receiving countries. This is categorized as "pull" of migrant labors. The rise of oil price and subsequent construction boom began in the early 1970's in the Gulf States. Thus the labor market in the region expands, and many migrant laborers came to those oil producing states. Figure 7 shows the Saudi oil prices and workers' remittances of Yemen. The oil price begin to rise in the early 1970's and culminates in 1981. After that year, the price continues to fall toward the 1990's, with some fluctuation in the end of the 1980's. This trend roughly corresponds to that of the workers remittances of Yemeni migrant laborers. Who are the migrant laborers? Although migrant laborers have various background in terms of age, economic condition, and family condition, there are certain tendencies. Usually it is said that a typical migrant is "a single man who stay abroad two to five years (Stevenson, 1993)." However, although the majority of migrant laborers are living alone in their destination, substantial portion of them are accompanied by their families. For example, there is a report that about one-third of Yemeni migrant laborers in Saudi Arabia brought their families to live with them in 1990 (Stevenson, 1993). Another report says that about ninety per cent of male migrant workers left their wives in their home town (Colton, 1993). Figure 7. Saudi Crude Oil Prices and Workers' Remittances of Yemen. Graph and bar chart.
Destination Most of Yemeni migrant workers go to Saudi Arabia. The result of the interviews conducted in al-Hujariyya region in North Yemen is that 87.8% of the returnees used to work in Saudi Arabia. Those who worked in other Gulf States are 2.3% and those who worked in the rest of the countries were just 9.9% of whole returnees (Colton, 1993). There are several reasons for this trend. First one is the location of the country. Since former North Yemen bordered on Saudi Arabia, prospective migrant workers can enter the country by public taxis. This is appealing to many people, as the families of the migrant laborers can save the cost of air ticket which is necessary if their destination is Europe or other Gulf States. Besides, Yemenis used to have a special status which allows them to enter the country without working permission (Stevenson, 1993). Another reason for going to Saudi Arabia is that most of prospective migrant workers have their relatives there. With the help of the relatives or acquaintances, one can easily find a job before leaving the country. Therefore most of the migrant workers found their jobs within one week from their arrival date. Supported by these merits, Saudi Arabia became almost exclusive destination of Yemeni workers. Types of Job The occupation of Yemeni workers in the Gulf States is mainly construction workers or unskilled laborers. Table 3 is the occupation of returnees in al-Hujariyya region in North Yemen. Table 3. Occupations of Returnees Al-Hujariyya Region, North Yemen, 1989.
Although this chart does not represent the whole trend of labor migration in Yemen, there can be seen certain tendencies which are commonly maintained. The largest portion of the people are engaged in agriculture, while the percentage decreases to almost half after the migration. The percentage of farmers among the migrant workers is much less than that among general population. Another study, however, says that 52% of returnees from Saudi Arabia had been agricultural workers before migration (Stevenson, 1993) During the migration, the most popular occupation is construction workers and unskilled laborers. Other study also support this fact, showing that about 40% of migrant workers are employed as unskilled laborers (Serageldin, 1983). After returning to the home land, many of them start their own business such as running a small convenience shop or doing commerce. The returnees tend to work in the service sector after returning to their home. Cause of the Migration There are various reasons why people decide to migrate to foreign countries, and each migrant laborer has different reason. Those reasons, however, could be classified as two kinds of forces push and pull. For example, the shortage of labor forces and better wages in the Gulf States can be considered as "pull." On the other hand, surplus of labor force and low wage in the sending countries are considered as "push." The labor migration happens in the balance of these two factors. Limits of Natural Environment Historically, the limitation of land and water resource are major factors which cause the flow of migration. Yemen, especially the North, has been the most densely populated region in the Arabian Peninsula. The land is quite fertile compared to other regions, and rain fed agriculture supported quite huge number of population. However, the amount of arable land is limited, and the country sometimes could not deal with the increase of population. The possible consequence of the demographic pressure is the shortage of food. The situation was more severe in the South. Therefore the community had to "expel" some of the members from its territory to maintain the standard of living, tradition and the social structure (Yajima, 1993). Waves of emigration were usually preceded by famines, floods, or other natural disasters. Private Benefit Some of the scholars emphasis the private reason for the labor migration. The difference between foreign and local income is also the main factor for the decision of migration. Usually, there is considerable gap of wages between the sending countries and the receiving countries of migrant laborers. In the personal level, what makes them decide to work in foreign countries is huge gap of wages (Richards, 1990). Impact of Labor Migration This labor migration influences many aspects of the life in their local community. First of all, the economy of both Yemen has been heavily depending on the remittances from the foreign countries. In the 1980's, the sum of workers' remittances was as much as 20% of gross domestic product in the North and 50% in the South (Stevenson, 1993). It can be said that most of the households in Yemen rely on those migrant workers. Some scholars discuss the migration activities in the light of destruction of culture. A peasant, living in the rural part of the countries, return to home after several years of manual work in the Gulf States with television and tape deck. However, this kind of discussion does not enlighten the reality of the emigration. Age Structure Labor migration in the Middle East often affects the age structure of both sending and receiving countries of migrant workers. Figure 8, 9 and 10 shows the age structure of North and South Yemen and Saudi Arabia in the middle of 1980's. In North Yemen, male population in their twentieth through fortieth is much less than the female population of the same generation. There are several possible reasons for this kind of phenomenon. One of the most common explanation is the influence of war, though it is not the case here. The most plausible explanation is the result of extensive scale of labor migration, as migrant workers are usually men in their twentieth and thirtieth, and the majority of them go abroad alone. South Yemen has the same tendency of age structure, though the difference between male and female population is not as great as that of the North. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, typical receiving country of foreign workers, has an opposite tendency of the age structure. The "surplus" of young male population cannot be explained by other than the presence of a number of foreign migrant laborers. Figure 8. Age Structure: YAR (North Yemen), 1985. Graph.
Figure 9. Age Structure: PDRY (South Yemen), 1985. Graph.
Figure 10. Age Structure: Saudi Arabia, 1985. Graph.
Decline of Agriculture The labor migration has negative effect on the agricultural productivity in the sending countries. Figure 11 and 12 shows the relationship between workers' remittances and food production in both YAR (Yemen Arab Republic) and PDRY (People's Democratic Republic of Yemen). In both countries, the increase of remittances roughly corresponds to the decrease of food production, and the other way round. This does not necessarily mean that the increase of labor emigrant results in the less productivity of food. However, there seems to be direct relationship between the two factors to some extent. First of all, agriculture in Yemen is still labor intensive industry. In the North Yemen, for example, I have not seen any tractors in the mountainous region. It is rather difficult to introduce tractors to terraced fields up to the mountain top. Secondly the difference of wage is more appealing to rural population than those living in cities. As a result, more peasants in rural area migrate to other countries for higher wage. Finally, most of the emigrants are in their twenties or thirties, who are the main workers in a field. The labor migration in Yemen used to be the result of the shortage of food production. However, the increase of emigrants result in less food production in the current situation. Figure 11. Workers' Remittance and Food Production, Yemen Arab Republic (North)
Figure 12. Workers' Remittance and Food Production, Peoples' Democratic Republic of Yemen. (South)
As the number of labor migration increased, the type of agriculture also changed. Instead of absent male residents, women came to work in the field, though they could not sufficiently compensate the loss of men. Moreover, as we see above, nearly half of farmers abandon agriculture after the return from foreign countries. The crop grown in the field has also changed. Instead of labor-intensive coffee and grain, qat trees increase. Qat is a mild stimulant which most of Yemeni men chew in the public settings. The growing of qat require little labor and produces much profit. As the result of labor migration to the Gulf States, agriculture came to be abandoned because it requires a hard work and produces relatively low profit (Birks, 1980). Even though the returnees go back to occupation in agriculture, they prefer qat as their main crop, and thus food production does not recover. Development of the country Labor migration also affects the development of local industry. The cities in the sending countries of migrant workers need manual labors for the factory. However, the potential workers, i.e. rural population, prefer to go to foreign countries. Especially the wages in foreign countries are more appealing to rural population than city dwellers, the potential manual laborers needed for the development of a country. Thus the sending countries of migrant laborers stay behind from the industrialization and modernization. In former South Yemen, labor migration caused the shortage of skilled workers and technocrats. Thus the country had to receive foreign workers from the East Africa to compensate the loss of labor force (Richard, 1986). The reason why former South Yemen restricted the number of migrant workers leaving the country is mainly this. The remittances from the migrant laborers usually does not help the development of the country. That money generates a new demand for luxury things such as VCR, camera and car. However, most of those commodities are imported from foreign countries because domestic products do not meet the demand of quality, or even they do not exist at all. Thus only import section of the economy is benefited by workers' remittances (Wenner, 1988). Return Migration In 1990, Iraqi army suddenly crossed the border of Kuwait, occupying the whole country and claimed the rights over the occupied territory. Saudi Arabia opposed Iraq and decided to invite US military forces into its territory. While most of the Arab countries supported the decision of Saudi Arabia, Yemen took a neutral stance, refusing to support the introduction of US military forces to solve the problem. This decision of Yemeni government caused the unprecedented scale of return migration. The Saudi government decided to deprive the special status of Yemeni migrant laborers. As a result, nearly a million of Yemenis had to leave Saudi Arabia. There were also approximately 45,000 Yemenis returning from Kuwait and Iraq. These phenomena meant the increase in the population of Yemen by 8% (Stevenson, 1993). The unemployment rate rose from 15% to 30% (Feiler, 1993). The country also lost the remittances from those countries as well. The large scale of return migration, however, did not began with the Gulf Crisis. From the mid 1980's, return migration became one of the issues in the Middle Eastern countries (Richards, 1996). As the labor market shrank, migrant laborers, especially unskilled workers, were forced to return to their home countries. The reason for this transition is the fall of oil price and the completion of major construction programs in the Gulf States. Although Yemen lost a substantial amount of workers' remittances at the time of Gulf Crisis, the amount of remittances had fallen to about 400 millions of US$. Considering that nearly 1.6 billions of US$ were sent to Yemen in 1983, the loss of the Gulf Crisis cannot be overestimated. Policy of Yemeni Government and the suggestion for the future The Yemeni government has several projects for the development of the country. From the mid 1980's the government had already been aware of increasing return migration and its potential negative effects on the economy. The government also noticed the relationship between workers' remittances and the import of industrial products: Most industrial products are imported. The trade balance has a chronic deficit, but it is held within manageable limits. Between 1980 and 1988 it ranged between Y.D. 152 million (1987) and Y.D. 274 million (1984). The service account had a surplus up to 1984. This surplus has been decreasing between 1981 and 1984. In 1985 it involved a deficit of Y.D. 10 million which grew to about Y.D. 35 million in 1988. However, the deficit of goods and services has been partly covered by unrequired transfers, the most important of which are the remittances from Yemeni workers working abroad, especially in the Arab Gulf countries. . . The amounts have been decreasing since 1984, as a result of the contracting economic activities - especially oil exports and prices - in the host countries (UN 1990). Thus Yemeni government tries to increase export production to improve the balance of payments. The government is also trying to minimize the import of goods by restricting them to the level to meet the country's needs for foodstuffs, raw materials, fertilizers, machinery and spare parts. However, the latter does not seem to succeed, as I saw a lot of Sony, Panasonic and other electric appliances in San'a this summer. Yemeni government also lists several objectives for the 1990's. Here, I show just some of them. (a) Development of natural resources (b) Development of physical production sectors such as Agriculture, Industry and Fisheries (c) Encouragement of exports by all possible means (d) Encouragement of tourism (e) Improvement of human resources including education, health, and job training Among these objectives, the government gives priority to the development of industry. This is the right choice because most of the industrial products are imported from foreign countries. The development of industry also produces job opportunities which is strongly needed in the current situation. The development of natural resources also sounds feasible, as oil and natural gas have been found in the country recently. The growth of the production of these two materials will be one of the solutions for current problems of return migration. Since this project requires infrastructure, the construction of pipelines and other facilities produce additional job opportunities. On the other hand, tourism is not recommended. It is true that the development of tourism leads to the increase of foreign currency into the country. However, it simultaneously causes the increase in imported goods, as the tourists usually spend their money for imported goods, with the exception of souvenirs. For example, they use luxury hotels run by foreign companies. The service in the hotels is kept same as that of developed countries. This means that they use foreign products needed for the guests. The bus they use may be made in Japan or Germany. Moreover, the dependence on the tourism often results in avoidance of alternative ways of development such as industrialization of the country. Finally, the tourism is as unstable as labor migration, as the number of tourists usually fluctuates and cannot be controlled by a government. Considering these facts, it can be said that the development of tourism has little contribution to the improvement of economic situation of Yemen, if not at all. Since the objects listed above cannot be achieved overnight, the restoration of the position of the returnees to the original place is also needed. There was a talk between Yemen and Saudi Arabia after the Gulf Crisis and the flow of return migration. Some of the migrant laborers were allowed to return to Saudi Arabia, though the number is quite small if compared to number of those forced to leave the country. Considering that Saudi Government wants to reduce the number of foreign workers, the complete return to the original situation cannot be expected. Here, again, the rapid growth of economy and development of physical production section, i.e. industry, agriculture and fisheries, are needed. Political turmoil in the country is also a problem Currently the consolidation of the country and the maintenance of the unity are the most important objectives of the government of Yemen. Everyday there are TV programs which spreads a lot of propaganda about the need for the unification and the consolidation of the country. Currently, it is said that most of the people agree on the unification of the country, though they differ in the opinion about the current government. Large scale of development will come only after the consolidation of the country. The next step for the future is the industrialization and the restoration of agriculture. The decline of these sectors are partially caused by the outflow of labor power. Therefore now may be the chance to establish the way of self development of the country. Without achieving these two goals, the country will continue to depend on imported products and remittances from the migrant workers, and thus its economy are continuously influenced by the policy of the receiving countries. There are some feasible projects of the development. Among them, newly found oil is the most likely solution for the current economic problems. Although the oil production of Yemen is not yet high enough (less than one per cent of the world production), there is high possibility of the improvement of current situation. The port of Aden is another source of revenue for the country. The port has been known as one of the best natural port in the area for a long time. The position of the port is quite convenient, near to the Bab al-Mandub, the strait which connects the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea. The port, however, has been almost abandoned since 1970's. Yemeni government is planning to renovate the facilities of the port and receive large ships. Since most of the ships using the Suez Canal stop at Hormuz, a port in the Persian Gulf, the renovation of Aden may attract those who want to shorten the route of voyage. Conclusion Labor Migration is one of the common features in the Middle Eastern Countries. There is a clear distinction between the sending countries and the receiving countries. Usually, the receiving countries are characterized by small population and rich natural resources, i.e. oil. On the other hand, the sending countries are usually poorer than the receiving countries and have quite huge population. Yemen is a typical sending country with more than fourteen millions of population. Most of Yemenis headed to its neighbor, Saudi Arabia. The remittances from the migrant laborers have been changing the household, neighborhood, and state economy of the country. The trend of migration is vulnerable to the change of policies of the receiving countries. The boom of labor migration was accelerated in the early 1970's with the rise of oil price and the construction boom in the Gulf States. There are two different opinions on the effect of labor migration. Some scholar maintain that the labor migration functions as a safety valve for the economy of the sending countries. The surplus labor force in the sending countries can be absorbed by the labor shortage of the receiving countries. Thus the sending countries can manage the ever increasing population. Those countries can also benefit from huge amount of remittances from the migrant laborers. However, other scholars claim that it has also the negative effect on both current economy and the industrialization of the sending countries. In these days the latter theory seems to be applied. With the decrease in job opportunities for migrant workers in the late 1980's the potential danger of the labor migration emerged. The character of the migration activities in the Middle East has changed from the past, especially after the emergence of oil producing countries. These countries give huge amount of job opportunities and attract the people from the surrounding regions. Now, the reason for migration is "better wages" and higher social status, i.e. landowner, as well as the solution for economic stagnancy in the sending countries. The governments of the sending countries should control the overflow of migrants. One of the solutions is the rise of wages in their home country. Especially the revision of the state policy to keep the prices of agricultural products relatively low. The Gulf Crisis was one of the turning points of Yemeni labor migration. About one million Yemenis were forced to return to the home country, and Yemen suffered from economic stagnation. It is true that the return migration at that time was unprecedented scale. However, the Gulf Crisis was not the major reason for the trend of return migration. The migration to the Gulf States had already declined by the end of 1980's. This trend was the result of the decline of oil price and the completion of major construction programs. Yemen is currently suffering from economic stagnation and serious unemployment, and the country is not yet politically stabilized. However, the possibility of development is high because of the presence of natural resources such as oil and gas, and the potential usage of the port of Aden. In my opinion, although the government encourages tourism, it should concentrate on the development projects based on its own industries for the time being. Maps: Map of region.
Private Unrequired Transfers, Middle Eastern Countries, 1988.
GNP per capita, Middle Eastern Countries, ca. 1990.
References Birks, J. S. and Sinclair, C. A., International Migration and Development in the Arab Region, Geneva, International Labour Office, 1980 Carapico, S. and Myntti, C., "Change in North Yemen 1977-1989: A Tale of Two Families", Middle East Report, No. 170, 1991 Colton, N. A., "Homeward Bound: Yemeni Return Migration", International Migration Review, Vol. 27, No. 4, Winter 1993 Feiler, G., Labour Migration in the Middle East Following the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait, Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, 1993 Fergany, N., "The Impact of Emigration on National Development in the Arab Region: The Case of the Yemen Arab Republic", International Migration Review, Vol. 16, No. 4, Winter 1982 Friedlander, J. (ed.), Sojourners and Settlers: The Yemeni Immigrant Experience, Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press, 1988 Halliday, F., "Labor Migration in the Arab World", Middle East Report, No. 123, 1984 International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1994, Washington D.C., IMF, 1995 Keyfitz, N. and Flieger, W., World Population Growth and Aging, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 1990 King, R. (ed.), Return Migration and Regional Economic Problems, London, Sydney, Dover, and New Hampshire, Croom Helm, 1986 Myntti, C., "Yemeni Workers Abroad: the Impact on Women", Middle East Report, No. 124, 1984 Owen, R., Migrant Workers in the Gulf, London, Minority Rights Group Report, No. 68, Sept., 1985 Pleumarom, A., "The Political Economy of Tourism." The Ecologist, vol. 24, no. 4, July/August, 1994 Reddy, M. A. (ed.), Statistical Abstract of the World, Detroit, Gale Research Inc., 1994 Richard F. N. (ed.), The Yemens: country studies, Washington D.C., American University, 1986 Richards, A., and Waterbury, J., A Political Economy of the Middle East, Boulder, Westview Press, 1990 ----------, A Political Economy of the Middle East, second edition, Boulder, Westview Press, 1996 Sell, R. R., "Egyptian International Labor Migration and Social Processes: Toward Regional Integration", International Migration Review, Vol. 22, No. 3, 1988 Serageldin, I., Socknat, J. A., Birks, S., Li, B. and Sinclair, C. A., Manpower and International Labor Migration in the Middle East and North Africa, Washington D.C., the World Bank, 1983 Shaban, R. A., Assaad, R. and Al-Qudsi, S. S., "The Challenge of Unemployment in the Arab Region", International Labour Review, Vol. 134, No. 1, 1995 Stevenson, T. B., "Yemeni Workers Come Home", Middle East Report, No. 181, 1993 Swanson, J. C., Emigration and Economic Development: The Case of the Yemen Arab Republic, Boulder, Westview Press, 1979 United Nations, Country Presentation by the Government of Republic of Yemen, presented at United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, Paris, 3-14 September 1990 ----------, Elements of tourism policy in developing countries. New York, United Nations, 1973 Van den Berg, Le Hadramout et les colonies arabes dans l'arcipel indien, Batavia, 1886 Wenner, M. W., "The Political Consequences of Yemeni Migration." In Sojourners and Settlers, Edited by J. Friedlander, Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press, 1988 World Bank, World Table 1995, Washington D.C., World Bank, 1996 Yajima, H., Umi ga Tsukuru Bunmei: Indo-yo Kaiiki Sekai no Rekishi, Tokyo, Asahi Shinbunsha, 1993 Notes See the attached map. The number includes Hadrami descents born in Indonesia. There are several conflicts over the borders between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. International Financial Statistics Yearbook and IMF Country Tables (line 77afd: Private Unrequired Transfers). As for the World Bank, they provide the data for the study of labor migration in their World Table (Workers' Remittances). These two publications, however, give only insufficient information for certain countries. For example, they have no information on the United Arab Emirates, the country which seems to provide quite large opportunities to foreign workers. The data on Iraq and Iran also cannot be found. Therefore we can access the information on less than half of the Persian Gulf countries. The reason for this is that the banking system in Yemen is not yet fully established, and the people are suspicious of the system. Some accidents during the process of remittances are reported (Stevenson, 1993). The result of an interview in al-Hujariyya region in North Yemen says that more than ninety per cent of workers left their wives in the hometown. Since the interview is conducted in 1989 among returnees, the data can be considered as the situation in the early and middle 1980's. As Table 3 shows, however, the percentage of farmers among the migrant laborers is less than that among general population (Colton, 1993). UN Disaster Relief Organization, US Committee for Refugees, US State Department, International Organization for Migration and the US Government Accounting Office cite one million as the number of return migration from Saudi Arabia to Yemen (Stevenson, 1993). I saw the programs almost everyday during my trip to Yemen.