Citizens’ attitudes towards migrant workers in Qatar.

Diop, A., K. Le, T. Johnston & M. Ewers.
Migration and Development

Public attitudes play a critical role in shaping policies towards immigration and the status of migrant workers. Facing growing pressure from international human rights organizations, media and other groups, the Gulf Cooperation Council states have begun efforts to reform the current kafala system, which prevails throughout the region. Yet despite these efforts, relatively little is known about what citizens actually think of this policy, let alone their more general attitudes towards foreign workers. In the following paper, we explore this question and focus on the case of Qatar. Recently, the Qatari government promised to reform their sponsorship system in 2015. Whether this reform succeeds will depend on public attitudes towards this new policy and how citizens perceive the role of foreign workers in the country. Drawing on data from a nationally representative survey in Qatar, we use a split sample technique to better disentangle citizens’ varying attitudes towards blue-collar and white-collar workers. The survey results suggest that Qatari citizens are ambivalent about foreign workers’ contributions and overall impact on their country. While they value foreign workers’ positive contribution to the development of their country in general, they have concerns about this population’s impact on economic and health resources. Ultimately, most citizens would prefer to maintain the sponsorship system, or kafala, as it is right now.

From knowledge transfer to learning: the acquisition and assimilation of human capital in the UAE and the Gulf States

Ewers. M.C.
Geoforum, 46, 1-148

This paper examines efforts by the United Arab Emirates and the other Arab Gulf States to use their oil wealth to “import” the human capital necessary to diversify their economies beyond oil. It explores how new forms of development capacity, necessary to create and sustain new industries in the Gulf, are acquired in the context of a global labor market. By studying the circulation and absorption of global human capital in the Gulf, this paper seeks to move beyond the focus on how institutions render flows of knowledge transferable or not. Instead, it emphasizes the ways in which institutions shape the ability of a place to assimilate and integrate foreign knowledge locally. This is accomplished by presenting results from surveys conducted with 300 foreign and local firms from throughout the Gulf region and key-informant interviews undertaken with 30 representatives of firms in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The results indicate that Gulf strategies to attract international investment, trade and migration have succeeded. These efforts, however, have not been accompanied by social integration mechanisms for the assimilation of external knowledge. Expatriate workers and foreign firms adapt their knowledge transactions for application to the region’s unique business and regulatory environments. Once in its localized form, this knowledge circulates within bounded, expatriate social spaces. These results, however, vary across key industries and locations. The key exception is found in the region’s financial sector, where local employment quotas have mandated high levels of learning via foreign–local interaction, and where locally embedded, personal relationships are the most valued asset a knowledge-worker can possess.

Labor migration to world cities: with a research agenda for the Arab Gulf

Malecki, E.J. & Ewers, M.C.
Progress in Human Geography, 31, 467-484.

We place labor flows, involving both highly skilled professionals and unskilled workers, within the framework of research on world cities. These flows are central to understanding the growth of world cities, particularly those whose growth is not primarily a result of advanced producer services. The context of Arab Gulf cities allows us to understand urban growth in the region as an outcome of wealth accumulation that stimulates large flows of skilled westerners and of unskilled workers from poor regions in Asia. We conclude with an agenda for research on migration to world cities and the division of labor in those cities.

Leapfrogging into the knowledge economy: assessing the economic development strategies of the Arab Gulf States

Ewers, M.C. & Malecki, E.J.
Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 101, 494-508.

The oil-abundant, labour-deficient countries of the Persian Gulf are investing their wealth towards creating economic development beyond oil. At a minimum, these strategies are attempts to craft the basis for sustainable economic development in a global economy that is more dependent on human capital and creativity than on natural resource wealth. This paper examines the Gulf development experience in light of theories on the diversification of natural resource-based economies, the transition from pre- to post-industrial development, and the role of services as an economic base. The paper assesses the Gulf’s current development efforts and post-oil, knowledge-based aspirations in terms of the region’s competitiveness, knowledge accumulation, and labour market structure.

Megaproject: A 4-Decade Perspective of the Gulf Development Model.

Ewers, M.C. & Malecki, E.J.
In S. Brunn (Ed.), Engineering Earth: The Impacts of Megaengineering Projects (pp. 533-550).

Over the past four decades the Arab Gulf States of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have used megaprojects to promote economic development. Examples include the construction of the physical infrastructure required for oil production, but more significantly, megaprojects to stimulate non-oil sources of growth. This paper examines two of the largest and most significant diversification megaprojects undertaken in the region: the Jubail and Yanbu industrial cities in Saudi Arabia and Jebel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates. We use these megaprojects as case studies to learn whether or how a pre-industrial, natural resource-based economy can deploy oil windfalls into massive infrastructural projects to create competitive and sustainable economic development.

Migrants, markets and multinationals: competition among world cities for the highly-skilled.

Ewers, M.C.
Geojournal, 68, 119-130.

Urban areas compete with one another for people, goods, capital, ideas and other inputs of economic activity. Under the rubric of globalization, instead of only maintaining or improving the initial stock of assets in a city, the power of a place to attract outside flows of economic activity from elsewhere is increasingly important to economic development. Similarly, global or world cities are characterized as the command and control points through which these global economic flows operate. In response to the heightened mobility of highly-skilled labor across national borders, research has begun to examine the role of international human capital as an economic flow. This paper will examine the role of places in determining where the highly-skilled go in the global economy by viewing global city command and control functions as requiring unique labor flows. By reviewing the evidence found in the literature, we can better understand the potential for urban areas to compete for highly-skilled labor in the global economy. Known indicators of place attractiveness are assessed to examine the relationship between the economic trajectories of cities and their labor requirements. Cities are situated between firms and states as the key place-based actors which influence the mobility of highly-skilled labor. Finally, the paper also examines measurement issues and methodological problems in creating indices of world cities as well as explores possibilities for new research.

No (Gulf) country for Syrian Refugees

Ewers, M. & Gengler, J.
Foreign Affairs Snapshot

Oil, human capital and diversification: the challenge of transition in the UAE and the Arab Gulf States.

Ewers, M.C.
The Geographical Journal, 26 (3), 236-250

This research studies the labour and human capital dimensions of diversification and structural change in oil economies, with a focus on the case of the UAE and the Arab Gulf States. It examines how oil-driven development in the Gulf has resulted in entrenched patterns of employment and migration, which have forestalled efforts by these countries to transition into more sustainable, post-oil economies. Utilising a mixed methods approach based on secondary data analysis and a survey conducted with 300 firms, it studies how these distortions have evolved as the region has embarked on a number of major diversification efforts over the past four decades. Oil wealth has provided Gulf economies with the capital to create competitive new sources of economic growth, but the challenge remains sustainability: reproducing the labour force in non-oil industries locally.

Risk and the securitization of student migration to the U.S.

Ewers, M.C. & Lewis, J.M.
Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 99, 470–482.

This paper examines the construction of international students as objects of security in the United States during the period surrounding 11 September, 2001. Competing perceptions of international student migration as threatening or beneficial contributed to policy discourses that sought to mitigate the risk inherent in migration. The events of 9/11 prompted new evaluations of migration risk, and in particular, foreign students were securitised – that is, incorporated into policy dialogues as national security threats requiring immediate and strict controls. We examine the securitisation of international students through the evolutionary processes of risk perception and risk management, which are articulated in the construction and contesting of geopolitical storylines.

The Arab Gulf States after oil: deploying windfalls for sustainable development.

Ewers, M.C.
Arab World Geographer, 17, 186-207.

This article examines the geographical dimensions of path dependence and path creation in oil economies. Existing frameworks in economics and political science suffer from a number of geographical limitations, which this article addresses by adapting recent frameworks developed in economic geography. In particular, the article studies the conditions under which oil windfalls might be deployed to promote the formation of more sustainable, post-oil sources of economic growth. This is accomplished by examining the development experiences and diversification efforts of the Arab Gulf states.

The rise of Kuala Lumpur as an Islamic financial frontier

Jessie P. H. Poon, Jane Pollard, Yew Wah Chow & Michael Ewers
Regional Studies

This paper examines Kuala Lumpur’s emergence as a prominent global Islamic financial centre. Its distance from the West and the Middle East offers a frontier positioning that facilitates new social practices from the integration of financial knowledge of Western world cities and Shariah authority claimed by Gulf cities. Based on primary data, the paper shows that transnational, transcultural alliances forged through skills of mediation and compromise among the city’s Islamic talents and Shariah scholars favourably connect separate economic and cultural spheres of knowledge.

Expatriate labor markets in rapidly globalizing cities: reproducing the migrant division of labor in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Ewers, M.C. & Dicce, R.
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

This paper studies the processes through which skilled international workers are differentially attracted to and incorporated in the rapidly globalising cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, thereby reproducing the migrant division of labour in these cities. This is accomplished by presenting results from a large-scale employment survey of foreign and local firms in these cities, as well as key informant interviews conducted with representatives of these firms. Most significantly, it is in global city labour markets that firm employment practices intersect with state regulatory frameworks and local employment structures, and thus, where skilled international migration flows are localised.

International knowledge mobility and urban development in rapidly globalizing areas: Building global hubs for talent in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Ewers, M.C.
Urban Geography

This paper examines the processes through which the United Arab Emirates’ cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai attract and integrate knowledge workers into their labor markets. It focuses on how the UAE has acquired the human capital to create post-oil economies, deploying its oil windfalls into massive urban development strategies in order to create global hubs for talent. More significantly, it analyzes how the UAE’s strategies and frameworks for attracting global knowledge flows ultimately determine the degree to which expatriate knowledge embeds locally. Presentation of results from a large-scale human capital survey of firms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as key-informant interviews with senior human resource administrators at these firms, demonstrate these processes.

Economic-development stakeholder perspectives on boomtown dynamics in the Eagle Ford Shale, Texas

Trey Murphy, Christian Brannstrom, Matthew Fry, Michael Ewers
Geographical Review

Unconventional oil and gas production in the United States reversed a decades-old trend of rising oil imports, provided an argument for lifting the U.S. crude oil export ban and motivated the development of domestic natural gas export facilities. But the most visible impact of unconventional-hydrocarbon extraction is the creation of boomtowns in rural regions. Despite widespread media coverage, scholarly analysis of boomtowns is restricted to regional econometric studies with little attention to how economic stakeholders understand and respond to booming economies. Here we analyze interviews with key economic stakeholders in the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas. Respondents consider their community’s economic success relative to the price of oil and indicate concerns about the deterioration of roads, high housing demand, and skyrocketing wages. We also re-examine John Gilmore’s foundational work on boomtowns in the 1970s in the context of contemporary unconventional extraction.