This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Africans Find Work--and Abuse--in the Gulf States

No place on earth is growing more quickly in population terms than sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, the population growth is outpacing economic growth and youth unemployment is high. This is the major reason why Africans risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe. It is also why an increasing number are now finding work in the Gulf states. Two stories this week highlight the issues. The first is from OZY:
While continued international pressure on the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar has managed to improve the working conditions of many South Asian and Southeast Asian migrants, recruitment agencies are now moving on to Africa. Detailed labor statistics are hard to come by in the region, but data from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs suggests that there are more than 636,000 Sudanese migrants in the Gulf, as well as up to 300,000 Kenyans. Many of the workers flooding the Persian Gulf States are from Somalia, Ethiopia or Uganda — countries with little capacity to guarantee the fair treatment of their citizens abroad.
Kenya had, in fact, put a lid on migration to the Gulf states back in 2014 in reaction to numerous stories of abuse and exploitation. But, according to a story from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Kenya is going to reopen those migrant avenues.
Kenya plans to lift a ban on its citizens working in the Gulf - introduced in 2014 because of abuses - with new safeguards, such as requiring recruitment agencies to pay a security bond so they can repatriate any distressed migrants. But experts fear that the new rules will not protect them amid corruption, greed and desperation for a better life. Lured by the promise of well-paid work and a chance to escape joblessness at home, hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are thought to be employed in the Middle East, sending much-needed remittances to their families every year.
Only time will tell if these new policies will limit the abuses. In the meantime, though, there are relatively few options for young people living in these countries with limited economic opportunities. Would global efforts to improve economic development help? Yes, if they are really indigenous efforts, rather than outsiders coming in to exploit the local populations. That is a tricky balance, and report out today from the Migration Policy Institute suggests that using economic development as a way of limiting migration is more complicated than it seems at first blush, and thus may not always have the desired consequences.

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