Towards a Late Rentier Structure of Labour Market Governance in the Gulf Cooperation Council: A Comparative Analysis of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar

  • Sophie Olver

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Member states, a number of significant policy reforms have coincided with significant changes in their socio-economic trajectories. This is especially evident within the employment domain, where a rapidly increasing labour force challenges the capacity of the regions domestic labour markets to provide employment. With increasing unemployment rates, combined with the region’s burgeoning young population, of whom some are well educated and seeking first-time employment, strain is placed on labour markets that were traditionally characterised by high levels of inactivity, a low skills base for the native population, the substantial presence of migrant labour and extensive segmentation and inequalities across wage and gender lines. The political implications for the future political stability and regime legitimacy in these states are easy to imagine and the challenges ahead are substantial. Moreover, policies aiming to sustainably increase the capacity of domestic labour markets to provide employment for the national citizenry are currently developed in a context where the Gulf States have to navigate their repositioning in the global economic architecture by diversifying their economies and reorganizing their socio-political formations towards ‘late rentier’ governance structures.Against this background, this thesis explores how GCC governments are attempting to transform their rentier based political economies, by comparatively analysing recent labour market reforms in three Gulf states, namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. A mixed methodological approach has been adopted, whereby through conducting a policy analysis on key labour reforms, namely the Kafala sponsorship system and Nationalisation based policies, alongside elite semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, this thesis has contributed to the identification of the emerging trends which characterise the post-rentier labour market governance structures in the GCC. Furthermore, due to the different development visions adopted by these three states, this thesis highlights the marked diversity within the regionally adopted policies of the Kafala system and Nationalisation based reforms and, thus, contributes to our understanding of the emerging variety of late rentier political economies in the region and their likely future developmental paths.
Date of Award26 Jan 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTheodoros Papadopoulos (Supervisor) & Rana Jawad (Supervisor)


  • Labour Market
  • Migration governance
  • Arab world
  • Rentier Political Economy
  • Gulf Cooperation Council

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