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Middle East, labor migration

Migration A–Z


  1. Adam Hanieh

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm368

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Hanieh, A. 2013. Middle East, labor migration. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Labor migration in the Middle East refers to the mobility of people in the region primarily for the purposes of employment. These labor migrations may be contractual and documented or, as increasingly the case in the early 21st century, involve undocumented transit of people without legal status in destination countries. The vast majority of labor migration that occurs internal to the Middle East is temporary in nature; residency requirements are linked to employment and obtaining citizenship is very difficult for non-nationals. In general, the category of labor migrant is not applied to large Middle East diasporas such as the Lebanese, who have migrated over generations for a variety of reasons and often settled permanently in their country of destination. This can present conceptual difficulties, however, as these diasporas frequently retain close linkages with their countries of origin and may remit significant amounts of money to dependent relatives. Labor migration in the Middle East overlaps considerably with patterns of forced migration, particularly in the cases of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. The very large migration flows from outside the Middle East to the Gulf – primarily from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Philippines – generally do not move internally within the region and fall outside the scope of this essay.


  • Asia;
  • diaspora;
  • labor;
  • labor supply;
  • political economy