Population Growth and Government Modernisation Efforts: The Case of GCC countries
Because of the economic and job market requirements, the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries have acquired extremely high proportion of migrant workers in the world, and is considered as the third largest in the world after the European Union and North America. Supported by the expansion of the oil industry, the colossal influx of foreign residents and workforce led to the exacerbation of the demographic imbalance in the GCC countries. This had an enormous impact on the region’s landscape both socially and economically. There are serious concerns among GCC countries about the stability of the national identity in light of the disproportionate population demographics. This paper touches upon the subject of the national identity in GCC countries, and present some recent statistics about the population demographics. It also presents one of the approaches followed by the GCC countries; namely, identity management systems, to allow their governments and policy makers develop and regulate their national identity strategies and the labour market.
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Population Growth and Government Modernisation Efforts: The Case of GCC countries
IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563Vol. 2, No. 1, 20121Population Growth andGovernment Modernisation EffortsThe Case of GCC countriesDr. Ali M. Al-KhouriEmirates Identity AuthorityAbu Dhabi, United Arab EmiratesAbstract— Because of the economic and job marketrequirements, the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countrieshave acquired extremely high proportion of migrant workers inthe world, and is considered as the third largest in the world afterthe European Union and North America. Supported by theexpansion of the oil industry, the colossal influx of foreignresidents and workforce led to the exacerbation of thedemographic imbalance in the GCC countries. This had anenormous impact on the region’s landscape both socially andeconomically. There are serious concerns among GCC countriesabout the stability of the national identity in light of thedisproportionate population demographics. This paper touchesupon the subject of the national identity in GCC countries, andpresent some recent statistics about the populationdemographics. It also presents one of the approaches followed bythe GCC countries; namely, identity management systems, toallow their governments and policy makers develop and regulatetheir national identity strategies and the labour market.Keywords-component; national identity, identity management.I. INTRODUCTIONIn the age of globalisation, the world is rapidly becoming asingle place and closer to each other, as distance has becomeirrelevant. Amidst ruthless modernisations plans, governmentshave discovered some crucial implications of globalisation.From a socio-cultural perspective, globalisation exercised apermeating effect on forming the relationships between andamong various locales, leading to the de-centering anddislocation of identities . In fact, the world is movingtowards a more complex, plural, interdependent identitystructures . Held  explains that “globalisation may bethought of initially as the widening, deepening and speeding upof worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporarysocial life, from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to thespiritual”.The social change as result introduces “significantalteration of social structures” where social structures means“patterns of social action and interaction” . Globalisation hastherefore created the need for identity. Many societies areattempting to rediscover and define there sense of self (oftenreferred to as national identity) in a world that is rapidlyproducing cosmopolitan societies driven by economic powers.Therefore, national identity in many countries has been theobject of governmental policies aimed at the restoration ofrooted tradition, religious fervour and/or commitment to ethnicor national identities .This paper looks at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) inthe Middle East; one of the most important and strategicallyvital regions in the world. GCC countries represent a uniquephenomenon with regards to their population composition.Unlike many other countries in the world, nationals constitute aminority in four of the countries. GCC countries are occupiedby one of the most diverse workforces in the world, whoconstitute 60 to 90% of the labour workforce. This hadtriggered some courses of actions in GCC countries to preservenational identity. One of the approaches adopted by the GCCcountries is the development of contemporary identitymanagement systems to provide them with modern enablers toauthenticate the identities of their legitimised population bothcitizens and foreign residents.The paper is structured as follows. A short background toGCC countries is provided which sheds light on its history andits development principles. Then, some recent data about GCCpopulation and the changing patterns of their demographics areexplored. The issue of identity in GCC countries is discussed topinpoint the ideology of its collective identity structure shapingthe Gulf Society. Next, an overview of the national identitymanagement approach adopted in GCC countries is providedwhich outlines its primary objectives and benefits, and thepaper is concluded.II. BACKGROUND TO GCC COUNTRIESFigure 1. Middle East in the World Map.The Gulf Cooperation Council, referred to as GCC, is aregional co-operation system between six of the southern Gulf
IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563Vol. 2, No. 1, 20122countries; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, andthe United Arab Emirates. The constitution which was formedin 1981, was based on the need to reconstruct identity, and onthe principle of a single culture and nation. The geographicalproximity, common religion, language and culture, and thesimilarity of their regulations and economic and socialconditions were key factors that ameliorated the establishment.In a total area of 2.55 Million Km2, an estimatedpopulation of around 46.5 million lives in GCC countries.Albeit the positive growth rates in the non-oil sectorseconomies, oil has been the principal component ofgovernment revenues since the 1970s for all of the sixcountries, which also have around 45% of the world’s provenoil reserves and 25% of crude oil exports.GCC governments have made profound investments in thelast few years in infrastructure development and othereconomical sources to recalibrate their economies. The visionof economical growth in these countries developed acosmopolitan culture, and significantly impacted theirpopulation demographics. Due to lack of local expertise, GCCcountries relied heavily on foreign knowledge and labour,which outnumbered the local population in some of thecountries. The next sections will provide further details of thepopulation demographics in GCC countries.III. GCC POPULATIONConsidered as one of the highest rates of population growthin the world , the GCC population has grown more than tentimes during the last 50 years; from 4 million in 1950 to 46.5million in 2010. Towards mid 2010, GCC countries wereinhabited by 27 million foreigners, who constituted 59 percentof the total population. See also Figure 2.Figure 2. GCC citizens v.s foreign residents.In UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain foreigners constituted amajority; in the United Arab Emirates alone foreignersaccounted for over 88 percent of the population. Merely Omanand Saudi Arabia managed to maintain a relatively lowproportion of foreigners: about 30 and 27 percent, respectively.See also Table 1.The population growth in GCC countries is very muchassociated with the economic growth. For instance, in theUAE, one of the most dynamic economies in the region,foreign labour comprises an enormous portion of thepopulation. According to the 2010 census, UAE population iscounted to be 8.2 million, of which only around 950,000 areUAE nationals. The nationals were around 818,000 in 2005,meaning a growth rate of around 3% each year over a period of5 years.TABLE I. GCC POPULATIONOn the other hand, the residents in the UAE have doubledfrom 3.3 million in 2005 to 7.2 million in 2010. It is predictedthat the GCC national population compared to the totalpopulation would further drop in the following years, ifappropriate correctional procedures and policies were not takento address the issue. Indeed, such growth of both GCCnationals and expatriates is likely to lead to exacerbation of thedemographic imbalance in the country.According to a report issued by the Economist IntelligenceUnit , the population in the Gulf region is predicted tocontinue rising by a third in the next decade, hitting 53.5million by 2020. However, in light of our reading of the GCC2010 census reports, our forecast of GCC population is likelyto go beyond this number, and reach or exceed 60 million by2020.Perceived as a serious challenge to future development ofthe region, 24 percent of the GCC population according to thereport will be under 25 year, rating second highest in the world,after Africa. Besides, this increase raises significant questionsrelated to how GCC countries labour and immigration policieswould respond to address these sources of economic, cultural,and political instability. Before we attempt to address this areaof concern, it is important to comprehend the evolving patternsof foreign workforce in GCC countries in the last 40 years, asthe next section explains.IV. THE CHANGE PATTERNS IN THE POPULATIONDEMOGRAPHICSAs depicted in Figure 3, GCC countries relied immenselyon foreign workers in the 1970s, which largely came the fromArab Middle Eastern countries. Using the significant financialliquidity generated from the petroleum revenues, GCCcountries followed a gradual development and modernisationpathway to pursue their economic and social transformationplans. Due to increased oil prices, which reachedunprecedented levels between 1970s and 1990s, a large numberof migrant workforce started to inflow the GCC countries. Thisworkforce primarily participated in the following threestrategic sectors:
IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563Vol. 2, No. 1, 20123• infrastructure development e.g., energy sources andimprovement of governmental departments andservices;• development of the industrial and agricultural sectors;• improvement of social services, e.g., health care,education systems, etc.By the year 2000, the economic diversification and theexpansion of the private sector’s role were the key componentsof the GCC countries agenda to move towards post-oileconomy. In light of the increasing foreign population as aresult, the GCC countries adopted forceful policies to promotenationalisation of various segments of the workforce both inthe public and private sectors. However, this required extensivenational workforce of a quality and quantity which could not besupplied by local sources primarily in the smaller countries.This period also witnessed the development of growth-driven foreign workforce migration models in many of theGCC countries. The private sector remained heavily dependenton foreign labour, as it imported more workforces to sourceand execute their plans. This has created a deeper, regionallabour market in the GCC countries.Figure 3. Workforce changing patterns.A. The Economic CrisisThe global economic crisis did not have a great impact onthe GCC countries workforce population. The GCC countriestackled the deteriorated oil prices and the consequences of theglobal crisis, with higher government spending, partlyredirected to internal and Arab region and sectors such aseducation and energy. This kept the growth of the foreignworkforce at almost the same levels as previous years. The2010 GCC census shows a considerable increase in foreignpopulation compared to previous years, as illustrated in theearlier section. The increase in population came despite theshrink of the countries real estate and construction sectorswhich suffered a slowdown.GCC countries attracted in the past few years highly skilledworkforce to execute its ambitious world class programs. But atthe same time, it also created large numbers of short termforeign workforce, where Asians outnumbered Arab workers.Today, GCC countries are recognised as the innovationhubs in a global environment characterised by strong demandfor energy and increasing globalisation. GCC recentdevelopment efforts pay higher attention to constructing thesociety and the political environment. Equally, this is adaunting challenge.B. EmploymentTaking into consideration the growing foreign labour forcein GCC countries, the foreign workforce is estimated at morethan 60 percent of the working population, and as high as 90%in countries such as the UAE. It is notable that the employmentdistribution in GCC countries is quiet disproportionate, as only1 % of the workforce is employed in the oil and gas sectorwhich produces 47 % of GCC GDP. A large number of theworkforce is employed in construction, utilities, government,and other service sectors. Government services aloneconstitute more than 20% of total GCC employment.GCC countries have attempted in recent years to reformtheir labour markets through developing labour andimmigration and employment policies to shift towards moreproactive social and economic courses of actions in thedevelopment of human capital and meeting the increasingdemand for employment among nationals (i.e., substitutingexpatriates with qualified national). The unemployment ratesamong nationals in GCC countries are floated between 5 and15%. The extensive foreign workforce has exposed the GCCsociety to challenging consequences not only on theemployment side, but also in terms of the stability of itsnational identity, as the next section will explain.V. GCC IDENTITYCastells  states that “the construction of identities isfundamental to the dynamic of societies” and that “culturalidentity is the process by which social actors build their ownmeaning according to cultural attributes.” Perceptibly, scholarsconstructed the concept of identity across a range of disciplinesboth from individual and societal perspectives. The individualidentity development has been observed as the central projectof humanity . The societal identity is often viewed as one ofthe primary driving forces of the information or network era.The founder of social identity theory, Tajfel  stated that,"any society which contains power, status, prestige and socialgroup differentials (and they all do), places each of us in anumber of social categories which become an integral part ofour self-definition". Social identity (or national identity in ourcase) is defined as "that part of an individuals self-conceptwhich derives from his [or her] knowledge of his [or her]membership of a social group (or groups) together with thevalue and emotional significance attached to that membership".Castells  divides the principal forms of collectiveidentities into three types:• Legitimising identities: a set of logic and meaningintroduced and propagated by dominant institutionsof society – notably political regimes in control of the
IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563Vol. 2, No. 1, 20124state apparatus and their followers – to rationalise,reproduce, and expand existing rule.• Resistance identities: constructed by those who arebeing marginalised, devalued and/or stigmatised bythe logic of domination in opposition to the rulingnorm, leading to communes or communities ofresistance.• Project identities: go beyond resistance and attempt tocreate new identity that redefines their position insociety and, by so doing, seek to transform the overallsocial structure.National identity is the most important component of thecollective identity structure. The issue of national identity inGCC countries has featured prominently since theirindependence and has been an integral part of the psyche of thecitizens. As a result, the sense of identity in the Gulf countriesis very strong.Although the elements illustrated in Table 2 explain to alarge extent the common identity elements shaping the GulfSociety, some researchers attempted to create the definition ofthis identity by formulating its substantive content. They arguethat mutual identity in GCC countries is evolving in the contextof two paradoxical concepts; homogeneity of cultural andsocial, that is shared among the member of the society, besides,the elements that make them different from members of othersocieties.TABLE II. COMMON IDENTITY ELEMENTS SHAPING THE GULF SOCIETYMapping to Castells  typology of identities, the identityof GCC countries evolved overtime as depicted in Figure 4Their first identity was generated by "social actors" in the sixcountries to “move out of the trenches”. This phase witnessednationalists in each of the six countries seeking self-affirmationin the process of “collective resistance against the territorialdomination and cultural survival, which resulted in theirindependence and/or proclamation and recognition, as depictedin Figure 5.Figure 4. Historical development of GCC countries. 
IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563Vol. 2, No. 1, 20125To redefine their positions in the region, they moved fromresistance to project identity, and succeeded to transform theentire social structure, which resulted in some countries, therestoration of fundamental cultural values and meanings withdeep historical roots. They all acquired membership in theLeague of Arab States; which was found in 1945 by Egypt,Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria to safeguard theirindependence and sovereignty (Kuwait joined in 1961, and therest of the GCC countries in 1971). In an attempt to buildstronger political Gulf-wide identity, the six countries formedthe GCC council, utilising the common identity elementsdescribed earlier as principles to provide them with therequired reference and identities of legitimisation.Figure 5. GCC countries identity development stages.The specific content of national identity is based on the fourfoundations, land, people, time, and will to live together.These powerful symbolic links lays the foundations to connectand interact with each other to create national identity .However, these elements may also cause at the same timedangerous seed than can be cultivated to cause dissention,disruption of the social order and alienation (ibid).For the past 30 years, the expansion of the oil industry hasconfronted the GCC countries, with changes and challengesthat is observed to threaten the national identity of their nativecitizen populations. There are serious concerns among GCCcitizens that this significant influx of foreign workers hassomehow challenged and altered the national identity of thecountries.Coined with the modernisation agendas of the GCCgovernments, the colossal influx of foreign workers and theirfamilies, led to the coexistence of multiple (project) identitiesrepresenting different groups in todays GCC society (see alsoFigure 6). Most of the foreign labours in GCC countries areconsidered to be unskilled workers, mainly in construction, andhousehold personnel (maids, servants, drivers, gardeners, etc.).The impact of such groups in the GCC countries isconsidered enormous. With more than 200 nationalities livingin these countries, they brought various cultural backgrounds,articulated values and norms that constituted their ownidentities. In fact, in the last 10 years, the foreign populationliving in the GCC countries exposed various traditionalelements to often contradictorily opinions and viewpoints.Figure 6. Emerging identities in 20th Century in GCC countries.It is worth mentioning that GCC countries have also beenunder growing international pressure in the past few years toallow expatriates to settle down and be given equal rights. Thishas opened room for more liberty among foreigners andemphasised individual freedom.GCC citizen population, on the other hand, perceived thisas an invasion of their principles and traditional constituents.They find it difficult to accept that they are now nationalminorities and instigated to see this diversity as a threat to theirtraditional values and customs. Fear of cultural assimilationand insecurity about the future of their identity has created asource of public debate.All this, has pushed the GCC countries, to construct newforms of legislative structures to preserve its identity. Labourand immigration policies were formulated to address a rangeof economic, cultural, and ethical issues. These developedpolicies were also aimed to limit the inflow of foreign labour,through limiting contractual duration of residencies. However,the GCC countries economy development plans whichdemanded further labour force made those policies result-less.So apparently, we observe that GCC national identity hasbeen superfluously vulnerable to pervasive influences by thevarious and complex ways in which local cultures in the GCCcountries and multiple foreign cultures interact with each other.Amidst GCC plans to pursue economic growth and increase itsvitality, the six countries have realised the need to establish acohesive national identity strategy to address this challenge.This clearly requires delineated objectives and outcomeexpectations supported by the right mix of various approaches.One recent approach the GCC countries have adopted inthis regard is the development of contemporary identitymanagement systems to provide them with more accurateinformation about their population i.e., national ID programs.Accurate information is viewed by GCC countries as afundamental planning requirement to allow their governmentsand policy makers develop and regulate their national strategies(see also Figure 7). The next section explores on a high level,the scope of these programs in the GCC context.
IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563Vol. 2, No. 1, 20126Figure 7: Economy driven population growthIn the age of globalisation, the world is rapidly becoming asingle place and closer to each other, as distance has becomeirrelevant. Amidst ruthless modernisationsThe ever-increasing socio-economic shapes of globalisationhave driven many governments worldwide to invest in moresecure forms of identification and improved identitymanagement systems, in order to ascertain the true identitiesand legitimacy of their population i.e., of those who holdidentification documents.This need is considered a critical requirement for GCCcountries in order to balance growth and against the consequentchallenges of globalisation i.e., the swelling influx of foreignresidents and labour, threat of identity fraud, illegalimmigration, international crime and global terrorism.Figure 8. National identity management driving forces in GCC.In a nutshell, the national ID card program in GCCcountries has a comprehensive focus to achieve two prevailingobjectives (See also Figure 8):1. Security enhancement: focuses on reinforcingimmigration control and increasing national security;and2. Economic growth: enhance and expedite servicedelivery, and facilitate e-government.Figure 9. Key features of national ID systems.
IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563Vol. 2, No. 1, 20127In principle, these systems are designed to improve identityrecognition both in the form of identification (1-to-many) andverification (1-to-1). The primary components of these systemsare:1) Central population database: considered key to enabletimely and accurate identity information, usesbiometrics to eliminate redundant identity information,2) ID card: smart card, that offers various approaches toauthenticating individuals, allowing more timelydelivery of government benefits.Identity Management systems are envisaged to improve theservices provided to nationals and residents in terms of bothscope and responsiveness or, in government terms, “bestvalue”. It is also foreseen to provide continuous, state basedidentity verification and authentication of individualpopulation, and to improve the security and integrity of bothdata and process. Figure 9 depicts the major components ofnational identity management systems in GCC countries.With strong leadership and a long-term focus, theseprograms are designed to provide more reliable data aboutimportant demographics and socio-economic facets related topopulation, which should help in designing persistentlegislative policies and systems. This should in turn, contributeto developing national human resources strategies in light ofthe growth strategies for all age groups and communities.National Identity Management systems are also expected tomaterialise identity-dependent service models that form thebasic foundation of identity management services provided toconstituents both in public and private sectors.VI. CONCLUSIONThe impact of globalisation and thereafter themodernisation efforts in the GCC countries has resulted innumerous socio-cultural implications. The rapid growth andrelative youth of the population allowed foreigners to dominatethe workforce. While there is no doubt that migrant labourershave been integral forces behind the unprecedented pace ofmodernisation in the GCC countries, they have also beenobserved as a negative influence on the national cultures,identities and values as well as social structures. Undeniably,the GCC identity today faces primarily the challenge of findinga balance between their traditions and modern standards andpractices. The living standards and highly paid wagescompared to other countries in the region, is likely to result inmore interested foreigners to work and settle in GCC countries.Indeed, governments have an active role in shaping andstabilising collective identities of their societies. Realising thisrole, GCC governments have attempted in recent years todevelop long-term structural changes and short and mediumterm needs of their continued rapid economic markets, that alsoaddress the sources of economic, cultural, and politicalinstability. One important approach GCC countries followed inthis regard is the development of contemporary identitymanagement systems.These initiatives have been backed by strong leadership toachieve two prevailing objectives: (1) homeland securityenhancement, and (2) enhancement and expedition of servicedelivery and support e-government. Certainly, an identitymanagement system that provides reliable and accurate datasource about the population demographics is a fundamentalplanning requirement and central to improving decisionmaking. It should subsequently allow GCC governments andpolicy makers to examine, and hence develop and regulate theirnational (identity) strategies and labour markets in a moreproactive manner.ACKNOWLEDGMENTThe content of this research was presented in the 21st-Century Gulf: The Challenge of Identity Conference, held inthe University of Exeter, U.K. 30 June - 3 July 2010.REFERENCES Unknown (20) Globalisation and Identity: Trends and Contradictions[Online]. 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