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The gender composition of the GCC foreign population | The Gulf Cooperation Council States (GCC) |

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The gender composition of the GCC foreign population

Onn Winckler

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The switch from Arab to Asian foreign workers has had an immense impact on the gender distribution of the GCC foreign population mainly due to the fact that the Asian workers tend to come alone to the Gulf. Thus, there is a high correlation between the percentage of the Asian workers of the total foreign workers and the percentage of females among the total non-national population.


In the case of Qatar, in which the vast majority of the foreign workers are Asian, in 2011 females constituted a mere 17% of the total foreign population aged 15 years and above (Qatar, SA, AA-2011). According to Qatar’s 2010 census results, females represented only 24.4% of the total Qatari population, including both nationals and foreigners (Qatar, SA, 2010:table 1).

United Arab Emirates

The gender composition in the UAE is similar, showing an extremely high percentage of males in comparison to females due to the high percentage of male foreigners among the total population. Thus, by mid-2010, females constituted only 22.3% of the UAE foreign population and 25.4% of the total population, including both nationals and non-nationals (UAE, NBS-2011).

Saudi Arabia

In contrast, in Saudi Arabia where the percentage of the foreign population of the total population is much lower and the percentage of Arabs of the total foreign population is much higher, females constituted 29.7% of the total foreign population and 43.0% of the Kingdom’s total population (KSA, MEP, ASY-2010:table 2-1). Due to the continuing rapid increase in Asian immigration which is predominantly male, it seems unlikely that the gender composition in the GCC countries will be more balanced in the near future.

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Onn Winckler is professor at the Department of Middle Eastern History, University of Haifa. His major fields of academic research are political demography and economic history of the modern Middle East.
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