This has come to represent a large component of all economic activity in most developed countries.
“The existing labour market system has promoted the growth of the economy in several regards, by making it easy and cheap to procure large numbers of migrant workers,” says the Bahraini expert in his paper.
“However, this system also has a substantially negative effect on national innovative capacity.
“To realise their economic visions, Gulf countries must reform their labour markets by creating a path to citizenship for highly-skilled migrant workers.”
The document proposes GCC states including Bahrain to benefit from the experience of models similar to Canada’s skilled worker points-based immigration, where a qualified candidate is first given an extended residency visa following which he or she is eligible for citizenship.
The criteria usually relate to educational qualifications, skills, and experience.
“The GCC states should modernise and develop models that are tailored to their own circumstances.”
Embracing foreign talent, Dr Al Ubaydli explained, will build the knowledge production clusters that the Gulf states need.
Low oil prices, increasing population and now the Covid-19 pandemic have put pressure on the Gulf countries to modify their economic models and move towards knowledge economies.
“Highly skilled workers who can be considered under the scheme can be academics, because there is not enough research being conducted in the Gulf compared with other countries, scientists, renewable energy engineers, Artificial Intellience experts, among other special categories,” Dr Al Ubaydli told the GDN.
He cites the example of the US which owes many of its commercial and scientific achievements to immigrants, who were integrated into the system after acquiring citizenship.
He highlights that for around 50 years Gulf states’ immigration systems were characterised by guest worker visas requiring workers and their families to return home upon the termination of their employment contracts.
“There is another aspect, related to the remittance that migrant workers in the GCC send back to their homes due to the temporary nature of their residence in the Gulf,” he stated.
This could be absorbed in the local economy.
Highly-skilled foreign workers in the GCC would not only train young citizens, but work together with them for national interest and further change the narrative of being looked on as a threat to their (GCC citizens) livelihood.
The 52-page report, published by the UAE-based Trends Research and Advisory, also refers to rising anti-Muslim sentiment and policies across the globe.
“The opportunity to cherry-pick the best global talent is also better than ever due to the Covid-19 pandemic: Most countries are in an excessively fearful state, and governmental resources are being directed towards tackling the pandemic rather than welcoming new migrants,” said Dr Al Ubaydli.
“Well-crafted reforms can transform the Gulf countries into the favoured destination of highly-skilled Muslims and non-Muslims from all corners of the globe, allowing them to create world-class knowledge production clusters.”
Several GCC countries, such as Saudi Arabia, offer permanent residency for those who make large investments in the local economy, including purchasing property.
Bahrain issues five-year multiple entry visas to certain countries including the UK, the US, Canada and Ireland.
The UAE has approved a long-term visa system for expatriates.
It announced last year it would grant five- or 10-year residency visas to investors, entrepreneurs, specialists in the medical, scientific, research and technical fields, and ‘outstanding’ students.
Saudi Arabia last year granted 73 foreigners “premium” residency under a new programme to attract overseas investment by enabling selected people to buy property and do business without a Saudi sponsor.