Expat exodus in Gulf states could continue into 2023: S&P report

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Expat exodus in Gulf states could continue into 2023: S&P report

S&P has published a report showing that the populations of the Gulf states declined by an average of 4% in 2020.

The report said the principle causes were the pademic and persistently low oil prices, both of which prompted many expat workers to return to their home countries. In addition many countries have made efforts to "nationalise" their workforce, prioritising jobs for their own citizens and reducing their reliance on expar workers.

The rapid depopulation through 2020 means populations across the GCC are unlikely to return to 2019 levels 2023, the S&P report found.

These changes could have repercussions for the regional economy and pose additional challenges to diversifying away from its heavy reliance on the hydrocarbon sector."

In Oman, the expatriate population fell by 12% in 2020, due to a combination of covid-19 prompting expats to return home and Muscat's ongoing police of Omanisation.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, both members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), have both taken active measures in the past year to reduce the number of expats they host.

In its report S&P said, "We expect the proportion of foreigners in the region will continue to decline through 2023 relative to the national population, because of subdued non-oil sector growth and workforce nationalization policies."

S&P added: "These changes could have repercussions for the regional economy and pose additional challenges to diversifying away from its heavy reliance on the hydrocarbon sector in the long run, if not met with economic and social reforms that foster human capital."

"As these levels are below the fiscal breakeven oil price for all GCC sovereigns except Qatar, we expect governments will moderate public investment spending, which is the main impetus of non-oil growth in the region."

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Christopher Copper-Ind

Christopher Copper-Ind is editor-in-chief of International Investment. Before this, he was editorial director of The Business Year, from 2014 to 2017.