Wealthy Indians invest in the UAE

The migration of Indian guest workers to the United Arab Emirates


List of abbreviations

Graphics directory

List of tables

Interview directory


1. Theoretical framework for migration processes
1.1. Introduction to Theory
1.2. Macro-theoretical explanatory approaches
1.2.1. Macro-approach of the neoclassical migration theory
1.2.2. Theory of the dual labor market according to Michael J. Piore
1.2.3. World system theory according to Immanuel Wallerstein
1.3. Micro-theoretical approaches in migration research
1.3.1. Micro-approach of the neoclassical migration theory
1.3.2. The "New Migration Theory"
1.3.3. SEU (Subjective-Expected-Utility) model
1.4. Described phenomena of recent migration research
1.4.1. Transnational Migration
1.4.2. Migration systems
1.4.3. Social networks and social capital
1.4.4. Chain migration
1.5. The integrating action-theoretical migration approach according to Hartmut Esser

2. History and development of migration from India to the Arab Gulf States in general and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in particular
2.1. The history and origins of labor migration in the Gulf region
2.2. Labor migration to the UAE
2.3. India as a country of emigration
2.4. The emigration of Indians to the Gulf region and the UAE

3. Economic and political framework conditions for the migration process
3.1. The economic development in the UAE and the connection to immigration
3.2. The economic / social situation in India using the example of Kerala and its connection to emigration
3.3. The UAE immigration legislation
3.4. The surety system in the UAE (Arabic: Kafala)
3.5. Indian legislation on emigration to the UAE (or other Gulf States)
3.6. Characteristic features of the Indian Gulf migrants

4. Field research
4.1. Aim and question of the field research
4.2. Target groups and methods of field research
4.3. Results of field work and questionnaire

5. The migration process: procedures and patterns
5.1. Recruiting Indian guest workers. Structures and development
5.2. How networks work and what they mean during migration
5.3. The importance of guarantors for informal entry from India
5.4. The emergence of illegality
5.5. Current measures to combat illegality

6. Earnings before and after migration and the practice of wage moderation in the UAE
6.1. Wage moderation in the UAE
6.2. The level of wages in the UAE
6.3. The level of wages in the country of origin India and specifically in Kerala
6.4. The Incentive Potential of Wages in the UAE

7. Remittances to India and their effects in the state of Kerala
7.1. The remittances to Kerala
7.2. Remittances as the basis for economic change in the state of Kerala

8. Explanatory potentials of the macro-approach of the neo-classical migration theory as well as the action-theoretical approach according to Hartmut Esser
8.1. Explanatory potentials of the neoclassical migration theory
8.2. Explanatory potential of the action theory approach according to Hartmut Esser



Directory of Internet Sources

directory of newspaper articles

Appendix (questionnaire)

List of abbreviations

Figure not included in this excerpt

Graphics directory

Figure 1: Model of the influences on the action of an actor

Figure 2: Share of crude oil and petroleum products in the gross domestic product of the UAE

Figure 3: Guarantee system in the UAE

Figure 4: UAE indigenous population by age group

Figure 5: UAE non-native population by age group

List of tables

Table 1: Asian immigrants to the GCC countries

Table 2: Relationship between UAE nationals and migrants

Table 3: Migrants in the UAE by origin

Table 4: Asian migrants in the UAE in 1995

Table 5: Emigration from India to the three main migration countries (except for the Gulf States) USA, Canada and Great Britain

Table 6: Indians who have applied for “Emigration Clearance” from the Indian government

Table 7: Proportion of individual migration destination countries for which "Migration clearance" was requested

Table 8: Emigration of Indian guest workers to the Gulf region

Table 9: Stock of Indian migrants in the Gulf region

Table 10: Annual emigration of Indian migrants to the UAE

Table 11: Origin of Indian guest workers who have applied for an emigration permit from the Indian government, sorted by Indian states for 1993 to 1998

Table 12: UAE revenue

Table 13: Income and investments in development in the UAE

Table 14: Investments in development of the UAE and numbers of migrants from India

Table 15: Overview of migration permits and permit releases

Table 16: Educational level of migrants from Kerala

Table 17: Proportions of different "Visa sources"

Table 18: Maximum fees that an agent may take for the mediation

Table 19: Wages in the UAE

Table 20: Monthly Merits in the manufacturing industry in India

Table 21: Wages in Kerala

Table 22: Foreign transfers to Kerala

Interview directory

Interview 1: Mr. B.S. Mubarak, Consul, Consulate General of India, Dubai, UAE (held on November 13, 2007), own transcripts,

Interview 2: Ms. Roda, Department of Naturalization and Residency Dubai, Department: Public Relations (conducted on November 20, 2007), own transcripts

Interview 3: Mr. Mahesh Paluru, ME Solution Consultant, Servion Global Solutions, Free Zone Sharjah (November 21, 2007), own transcripts

Interview 4: Mr. Deepak Ravi, Manager Human Resources, National Power Erectors and Suppliers, Abu Dhabi, UAE (conducted on July 6, 2008), tape recording.


Since the mid-1970s, the oil-producing countries on the Persian Gulf have experienced an immense economic boom due to their income from oil sales. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are one of these Gulf states, which were able to dispose of large amounts of capital within a few years and invested them in the development of the economy and infrastructure. The resulting need for qualified or unskilled labor could not even come close to being met from the ranks of the local population, and so the Emirati government recruited the necessary workers from Arab and East Asian countries. From these beginnings a migration flow developed, which continues to this day and has led to the UAE currently being the country (for countries with more than 1 million inhabitants) with the largest proportion of migrants worldwide. Workers from India have represented the proportionately largest foreign population in the UAE since the 1980s.

All theories that attempt to justify the social phenomenon of migration assume that certain framework conditions influence the development of migration and the volume of migration. Using the example of the labor migration of Indian guest workers to the UAE, the relevant conditions that trigger and maintain migration are to be examined in this thesis. According to neoclassical migration theory, the different economic conditions of the region of origin and destination, which are reflected in the wage gap, are the most important trigger factors for migration. On the basis of the theses formulated by these theses, the economic framework conditions for the destination country, the UAE, as well as for the main country of origin India, should be worked out using the example of the southern Indian state of Kerala. For the UAE, the interlinking of income from oil sales with investments made and the subsequent demand for labor will be examined. For the example of Kerala, the extraordinarily high unemployment, which prevailed in this Indian state for a long time, is associated with wrong economic decisions. In addition, the social and demographic factors of the state influencing migration are identified.

In addition to the economic conditions, the legal framework defined by the provisions of the country of origin and destination should be considered. When evaluating the changes in the migration volume, the influence of laws both in the destination country and in the country of origin is taken into account.

At the end of the thesis, the findings of these investigations will flow into an evaluation of the explanatory potential of two different theories on migration. The aim is to examine how fully each of these two theories is able to provide an explanation for the onset and continuation of migration from India to the UAE.

A second focus of the work is on a selected phenomenon of the emirate labor market, which recently, in 2007, got massively in the headlines of the emirate gazettes due to the declaration of a nationwide amnesty. It is about the large number of guest workers who stay illegally in the country without a residence permit. The emergence of this large group of illegal guest workers is based on certain political structures, the elaboration of which is the second objective of this work. In pursuing this objective, the variants of formal and informal access to the labor market of the UAE that are closely related to this topic are identified and their respective contribution to the creation of this situation is assessed. The guarantee system, the work of employment agencies and entry with a tourist or visitor visa are dealt with in detail.

In addition to these main objectives, the reader should be given insights into the history and general processes, aspects, structures and characteristics of labor migration from India to the UAE.

Field research carried out by the author, mainly in the emirate of Dubai, was helpful for obtaining up-to-date information. The field research comprised four expert interviews and a survey carried out on twenty-five Indian migrants using a specially created questionnaire.

1. Theoretical framework for migration processes

In this chapter selected theoretical approaches to international migration are presented. This overview serves to create a theoretical basis for the present work. His goal is to present various theoretical approaches and to explain the underlying ideas. We do not claim to be complete. Among the approaches to be presented are two, which will be dealt with in more detail and whose explanatory potential will be discussed in the last chapter of this work, with reference to the general topic of this work. These are the macro-approach of the neoclassical migration theory and the action-theoretical approach of Hartmut Esser.

1.1. Introduction to the theory

"Migration is defined as any change in a person's main residence ..."[1]

“Ernst Georg Ravenstein set the starting point for the development of a migration theory with a lecture to the Royal Statistical Society on internal migration in the United Kingdom in 1885. Ravenstein was the first to present the argument based on statistical observations that migration is not random. Since then, attempts have repeatedly been made to describe the causes and extent of migration with the help of formal models. However, no comprehensive and satisfactory theoretical model has been presented to date. "[2] The explanatory approaches are generally based on a rational decision by the actors who make them in favor of migration. The main focus is on the factors that trigger such a decision. A common model concept for this is the push-pull model, which assumes that certain “repulsive factors” of a region of origin together with the “attraction factors” of a target region form the basis of the decision for a possible migration. However, this model concept does not represent its own theoretical approach, but must be incorporated into a more comprehensive theory.

One possibility of categorizing existing migration theories is to differentiate them with regard to their origin from the fields of economics, sociology or political science. Another possibility of classification, which is used here, is the distinction according to whether migration movements are explained as a social phenomenon on the level of society (macro-theoretical level) or on the basis of individual decisions made by individuals (micro-theoretical level). The in section 1.2. Representatives of macro-theoretical explanations to be presented are the macro-approach of the neoclassical migration theory, the theory of the dual labor market and the world system theory. The representatives of a micro-theoretical approach are discussed in Section 1.3. presented. These include the micro-theoretical approach of the neoclassical migration theory, the “New Migration Theory” and the SEU model of decision. The latter is not a separate approach, but an important part of a micro-theoretical explanation. After introducing these two groups, we will deal with the phenomena that recent migration research describes. Transnational migration, migration systems, social networks and social capital as well as chain migration are considered. In section 1.5. the action theory approach according to Hartmut Esser, which tries to connect the macro-theoretical and micro-theoretical level, is presented in more detail.

1.2. Macro-theoretical explanatory approaches


The focus of macro-sociology, which reached its peak in the 50s and 60s of the 20th century, is the investigation of societal interdependencies. The explanation for the respective sociological phenomenon is sought beyond all individual motives by individual actors, in determinable conditions and structures, in order to be able to formulate general laws from them.[3]

"Macro-theoretical approaches try to describe migration behavior at the aggregate level, i.e. on the basis of entire populations. Here, the aggregated migration between two regions is to be explained by other "indicators" of these areas, such as economic or geographic ones. "[4] In the middle of the last century, models were developed which were based on Newton's law of gravity and which gave conurbations per se an attraction for migrants. In analogy to Newton, the “massive body”, the agglomeration, has a force of attraction that increases as the distance to it decreases. According to this theory, the greater the distance between them, the smaller the migration volume between the urban center and the peripheral area.[5]

1.2.1. Macro-approach of the neoclassical migration theory

The neoclassical migration theory is the classical migration theory further developed by scientists like Sjaastad, Harris and Todaro. The macro approach of this neoclassical migration theory is based on the different supply and demand situation of the labor force that exists between individual countries or regions.[6] In the initial situation, there are different areas or rooms[7]in which there is a difference in the ratio of demand and demand for the “commodity” labor.[8] An area is characterized by a good or surplus supply of workers who are willing to work and appropriately trained for the tasks in relation to the work required. Another area, on the other hand, is said to have a corresponding deficiency in these. The reason for this difference is the existence or the lack of invested capital tying up the labor force.[9] According to neoclassical migration theory, which assumes a free labor and commodity market, the “commodity” labor in the area with a labor shortage, at the same time good capital supply and willingness to invest, will be rewarded higher than the labor in the area in which there is an oversupply of comparable labor. In the latter, capital - be it available or non-existent - was not invested in labor-binding measures. These different supply and demand situations for labor as well as the capital situation are expressed in wage differences. As a result of these wage differentials, in the scenario assumed by the neoclassical migration theory of unrestricted freedom of movement, workers move from the area with less labor demand and lower wages to the area with higher labor demand and higher wages. This process continues unchanged until the demand for manpower is met. The saturation of labor causes a decrease in wages in the capital-rich investment area. According to this theory, the supply of labor is falling in the countries from which the labor force has emigrated and, as a result, wages there gradually rise again. A relative equalization of wages up to the point at which the threshold of the financial incentive is undershot causes a stagnation of the migration movement.Another reason for the rise in wages in the emigration areas is, according to Massey[10] in the capital flowing into the capital poor countries, which is invested there due to the high potential for returns. This leads to an increase in the need for workers there.

1.2.2. Theory of the dual labor market according to Michael J. Piore

Piore creates a relationship between migrant flows and a segmented labor market in industrialized countries. In this approach, too, the individual decision of a migrant is irrelevant when considering the cause of migrant movements. According to Piores theory, the labor markets of industrialized countries are divided into a primary sector and a secondary sector. The primary sector demands high-quality specialist training from the employee, but at the same time offers him a relatively highly paid and “secure” job. The secondary sector, on the other hand, requires little or no specialist training and only provides insecure, low-paid jobs. The secondary labor market shows an initially unsatisfied demand for labor inherent in the system. According to Piore, the reasons why the secondary labor market cannot be satisfied by domestic workers are as follows. The secondary labor market is subject to seasonal fluctuation, offers few opportunities for advancement and offers only poor pay. However, wages in this sector cannot generally increase, as this would also result in undesirable upward movements in wages in higher-paid jobs. The reasons mentioned make this sector unattractive for local workers. As a result of this situation, companies have to look for employees for whom this work is nevertheless attractive. These can be found in countries where the average wage level is considerably lower than in the industrialized countries. As a result, a migratory movement starts from there. According to the theory, the number of workers ready to migrate is so great that this emigration does not stop.[11] In contrast to the neoclassical migration theory, this approach does not lead to a change in wages in the industrialized countries, nor does it have any retroactive effect on the wages of the financially weak countries, and thus does not align the different wages.

1.2.3. World system theory according to Immanuel Wallerstein

The world system theory is based on analyzes of the clash of capitalist industrialized countries with less industrialized countries. Labor migration is explained in the context of flows of goods and capital. In the context of world systems theory, it is argued that international migration follows the political and economic structure of an expanding global market. The individual states are viewed as part of the global system. According to Wallerstein, the main exponent of this macro-sociological approach, the world functions according to a given social and economic structure in terms of capital accumulation, commodity production and labor distribution. This structure began to develop in the 16th century. “From the point of view of systems theory, international migration is neither the result of rational individual decisions by individuals with the aim of using the higher wages in the host country for their own economic advantage, nor is it an answer to the demand for labor that arises from the dual labor market in industrialized countries. For systems theory, international migration is directly related to the structure of the global capitalist economic system. "[12] The world or any (economic) space is divided into three zones: a core zone, a semi-periphery and a peripheral zone. These zones are characterized by different stages of economic development and they have different tasks and positions within the world system. In the countries of the core zone, where production and wages are high, there is a shortage of workers who work for low wages. The peripheral zone is initially characterized by low-productive peasant-agricultural economic structures, a high unemployment rate and cheap labor. The theory assumes that doing business at a highly productive level in the core zone accumulates a lot of excess capital, for which profitable investment opportunities are sought. According to theory, these can be found in investing in the peripheral zone and the introduction of plantation economy, mechanization of agriculture and mass production. With the onset of this development, the use of modern techniques and mechanization results in the destruction of traditional structures and the release of workers who migrate to the areas with a need for workers, i.e. to a core zone.[13] The probability of migration between already historically and politically connected areas or countries is much higher than previous connections (example: former colonial powers and their colonies).[14] The world system theory follows similar assumptions as Piores theory of the dual labor market.

1.3. Micro-theoretical approaches in migration research


Microsociology deals with small groups (family, friends) and basic “fine structures” in interpersonal behavior. These are the smallest, independent, no longer reducible configurations of social behavior, which are understood as elementary total phenomena independent of the overall social context and are to be located between group phenomena and individual psychological issues.[15]

This countermovement to macro-sociology emphasizes the importance of explaining the actions of individual actors for an adequate understanding of social processes.

1.3.1. Micro-approach of the neoclassical migration theory

The micro-approach of neoclassical migration theory, also known as human capital theory, assumes every individual as a rationally thinking economic subject who makes rational decisions in order to maximize their own benefits. The advocates of this approach assume that a potential migrant conducts a cost-benefit analysis on the question of labor migration and that he only decides to migrate if the expected benefit appears high enough.[16] "Both monetary and non-monetary costs and income are included in the model, such as psychological costs and lost profits (...)."[17]

"There are monetary costs, for example, for moving to a distant region. Non-monetary costs of a hike, on the other hand, can be of a social nature, such as the loss of a friend or family. "[18] The investment in one's own “human capital” in the form of migration must generate an acceptable profit from the perspective of the future migrant. According to the human capital theory, a profit expectation forms the basis of every positive decision to migrate. There are different models of cost-benefit calculation, one of which is the SEU (Subjectiv-Expected-Utility) model, which is described in more detail in Section 1.3.3. is presented.

1.3.2. The "New Migration Theory"

The “New Migration Theory” represents a modification or further development of the micro-approach of the neoclassical migration theory. The change that distinguishes this approach compared to the neoclassical migration theory is the reference person for the cost-benefit calculation. It is not the maximization of the individual income, but the benefit for the community, to which the respective individual belongs, in the foreground. Examples of communities here are families or extended families. The individual analysis unit is replaced by another analysis unit, e.g. the household. The household benefit can contradict the individual benefit, as is the case, for example, with wives who suffer a loss of income due to the loss of their source of income in the old location due to a move that promises the man more income elsewhere.[19]

1.3.3. SEU (Subjective-Expected-Utility) model

The SEU model is not a separate migration theory, but a model according to which, for example, in neoclassical and new migration theory, the personal benefit that serves as the basis for decision-making can be determined. This model represents a variant of the value expectation theory, which in turn is based on the rational choice approach.

Rational choice (or rational decision) is a collective term for various action theory approaches from economics and social sciences. These attribute rational behavior to the acting subjects, whereby the subjects show a benefit-maximizing (or also cost-minimizing) behavior due to certain preferences and choose the alternative action that promises them the greatest subjective benefit.

“The value expectation model by DeJong and Fawcett (...) indicates the intention to migrate as the sum of the expected values ​​in relation to certain goals of actors, which are based on the empirically and theoretically obtained dimensions of prosperity, status, convenience, stimulation, autonomy, relationships and morality . Migration is conceived as an instrumental action; the decision is based on a cognitive calculation of subjectively evaluated factors in relation to the goals of the actors. "[20] Accordingly, it is not the real advantage that leads to the positive decision, but the benefit expected by the individual. In the section on migration theory according to Hartmut Esser (Section 1.5.), This model is presented in more detail.

1.4. Described phenomena of recent migration research

1.4.1. Transnational Migration

The phenomenon of transnational migration described is international migration, which is no longer, as previously defined, a unidirectional and one-time change of residence, but a movement between different regions. "The transmigrants live between different places of residence, are therefore neither at home nor at the place of entry and often commute between places of residence."[21] This behavior of a quantitatively remarkable group of migrants creates close social-cultural-ethnic connections between the two common rooms. A kind of “de-localized social reality” develops both through and for the migrants. These resulting spaces are called transnational social spaces, global cities or transnational communities. The development of these spaces goes hand in hand with a decoupling of geographical and social space.[22]

1.4.2. Migration systems

Migration systems are a phenomenon closely related to the phenomenon of transnational migration. “The migration system approach assumes that there is a relatively intensive exchange of information, goods, services, capital, ideas and people between certain countries. These form a migration system that connects the origin and destination nation. (…) It is assumed that several specific departure countries concentrate on one target nation (multipolarity), whereby the departure countries in particular can belong to several migration systems and geographical distance does not play a role. "[23] The focus is on the diversity of the places between which a mutual dependency arises as a result of the process of migration. Social networks are an important part of this system because their creation and maintenance is closely related to the existence of these networks. Migration systems can be categorized into interstate relationships, mass culture connections, personal and family networks, and activities of migrant agencies.[24]

1.4.3. Social networks and social capital

The network approach places the social emigration and immigration networks, which are also part of the consideration of both transnational migration and migration systems, in the foreground. “Personal relationships that connect migrants, former migrants and non-migrants in the regions of origin and destination increase the likelihood of international migration, which can lead to chain migration (see Section 1.4.4.). Most migrants already have relatives in their new place of residence, travel together with relatives or relatives travel to them later. "[25] As in section 1.4.2. mentioned, social contacts or social networks maintain these migration flows.

The discovery and description of social networks in connection with migration was followed by the introduction of the term “social capital”. “Personal contacts with friends, relatives and compatriots help migrants to find jobs and apartments and give financial support. In this respect, the costs of migration are reduced and the lack of economic resources is compensated for by a variety of useful social relationships. "[26] Social capital can be used as a synonym for all "positive economic effects that result from social structures"[27] consider. Psychological support, e.g. for relatives, can also be viewed as social capital, which creates mental stability and a feeling of security.

1.4.4. Chain migration

Chain migration is the quantitatively strong migration of subsequent migrants that follows an individual migration and is dependent on it. It is closely related to the phenomenon of social networks and social capital discussed above. Chain migration is characteristically different from individual migration. In contrast to individual migrants, chain migrants enjoy the advantage that they can also access information from their network when looking for a job in the destination country. Furthermore, a chain migrant is able to reduce the costs of his accommodation by sharing the accommodation and the use of various permanent consumer goods, such as a refrigerator, with other fellow migrants. In this way, he can minimize his cost of living and his migration and accommodation costs are lower than those of individual migrants, who are, for example, pioneering migrants at the beginning of a migration chain. In addition, the aspect of existing social contacts in the destination country, which help to reduce the psychological costs of migration, such as loneliness abroad and separation from the family, is an important aspect that favors a positive migration decision. Assuming that people act in a use-oriented manner, it becomes more likely that a potential migrant will choose a destination country in which he can fall back on social ties to search for or accept a job.[28]

1.5. The integrating action-theoretical migration approach according to Hartmut Esser

The realization that each of the approaches described above describes or explains only part of a complex sociological phenomenon such as migration, resulted in the attempt to unite the various approaches and with them the levels of micro and macro in one explanatory model.

Hartmut Esser is a representative of the sociological school of thought of methodological individualism.[29] An orientation towards methodological individualism means the intention to forego conceptions of an independent system reality, independent of the acting individuals, when investigating social and structural phenomena and to trace back all social processes, system requirements and functions to the feeling, interest-guided action and learning of individuals.[30] The basic statement of this epistemological direction and thus also the starting point of Esser's approach is that social facts (macro phenomena) must always be explained as the result of individual actions. A social situation (or sociological phenomenon) at the macro level is first transferred to the micro level by considering the actions of the individuals on which this situation is based. For this action one tries to find an explanatory model and typical constellations of conditions. Once a model has been found for action on the individual level, one can try to aggregate it, i.e. to transfer it to the aggregate level, i.e. to the level of entire populations, and thus obtain an interpretation of the social situation.[31] This approach is also known as the Coleman's bathtub or the macro-micro-macro model. The basis for the explanation of the macro phenomenon is thus a theoretical approach that explains the actions of the individual. There are some approaches to make human actions explainable.[32] First of all, the type of such an explanation depends on which basic properties or basic modes of operation are ascribed to the acting individual (or the acting of the individual). There are two traditional sociological descriptions of the human being. The one being described from the point of view of the theory of action is Homo oeconomicus, who is fully informed under ideal-typical conditions and always acts in such a way that he maximizes his personal benefit. The second type is the homo sociologicus, who acts in accordance with the norms and is not interested in maximizing his own benefit. The sociologist Siegwart Lindenberg[33] created another model: that of the RREEMM (Resourcefull, Restricted, Evaluating, Expecting, Maximizing, Man)[34]. Hartmut Esser applies his modified version of the Rational Choice approach to this third human model. All approaches based on the rational choice theory attempt to answer three basic questions that determine the action through hypotheses.

1. Motivation hypothesis: What motivates individuals to act?
2. Selection hypothesis: According to which criteria do individuals choose their actions?
3. Limitation of action hypothesis: Which actions are available for selection?

Esser formulates the above hypotheses as follows:

1. Motivation hypothesis: Actions are always a means to realize a wish / to achieve a goal. Which means best meets the need and which goals are most desirable is determined by preferences. The starting point for an unconscious or conscious goal is initially the two basic human needs for physical well-being and social appreciation.[35] The choice of the respective sub-goal, such as being able to take care of yourself and your own family or setting a world record in swimming, depends on personal preferences, which reflect your own values, expectations and experiences, but also on the level of satisfaction of your needs.[36] The above-mentioned values ​​and expectations are influenced by the social guidelines, traditions and values ​​of the community in which the actor moves and the role he takes on in it. Esser speaks of the inner conditions of action. Just as the objectives are influenced by the framework conditions just listed, so are the ideas about the means and ways to be used to achieve the objectives. For example, one way of achieving the goal of being able to provide for yourself and your family well is to look for better paid work elsewhere. Another means could be stealing the coveted goods.
2. Selection hypothesis: The principle of utility maximization applies here. If several actions or means are suitable for attaining a goal, the individual always selects the action which, from a subjective point of view, promises him the greatest expected benefit or the lowest costs. The expected benefit is not necessarily more material but can also be of a qualitative or ideal nature (e.g. reputation). A theory that describes the evaluation of alternative courses of action is the value-expectation theory or SEU (Subjective Expected Utility). This expected value results from the product of the probability of occurrence P (Probability) and the evaluation U (Utility) of the consequences of an action (SEU = P x U). According to Esser, this process of weighing up various usefulnesses is subject to "bounded rationality"[37] of every human being.
3. Hypothesis of the restrictions on action: Restrictions are situational or structural variables that restrict the scope for action. These are divided into natural restrictions (these are all restrictions that prevent an action for technical reasons such as lack of money or lack of time) and social restrictions (these are the restrictions that exclude an action for social reasons such as certain norms or orders). If the individual has gone through this process described by the three hypotheses, he reacts with the corresponding action, which of course can also be the failure to act.

"Situations of action are always combinations of material, institutional and cultural conditions, as external circumstances in the environment and as an internal disposition among the actors"[38]

As explained above, Esser's action theory model uses the rational choice approach, which is used within the selection hypothesis as value expectation theory. But are people's decisions always based on rational considerations? This is a question that is by no means agreed among action theorists.

A much discussed problem with rational choice theory is the phenomenon of altruism, i.e. selfless action. At first, any selfless act seems to refuse to be included in the rational choice model. At second glance, however, altruistic behavior can change into selfish behavior if there is a corresponding willingness to change the perspective and consider the underlying motives of "altruism". Examples of this could be: a group goal supported by a person (e.g. family goal) has great (expected) benefit for the individual when it is achieved. A motive for helping would be, for example, to raise one's own reputation within a community or to avoid a conflict that would have arisen through not helping. Viewed in this way, such actions would be rational and beneficial. It is an open philosophical question whether there is “true” altruism or not.

The theory of action according to Esser just presented is illustrated by the following simplified graphic. It shows on the one hand the influences on goal formation and choice of means as internal conditions of the agent, and on the other hand the influence of opportunities and restrictions as external conditions of the action. The stages of target training and path selection are each preceded by “internal filters”. The black arrow, which runs from the inner goal formation to a possible alternative course of action, is guided by the inner conditions and, apart from the middle one, which represents the choice of means with the second highest personal preference, is prevented from further pursuit by the external conditions. The decision for a certain action from the pool of possible action alternatives is made by the actor according to the SEU model.

In the graphic, only the path (or the means) with preference 1, i.e. the middle black arrow, reaches the pool of possible alternative courses of action. The other two, of the three middle choices (preferences 1 and 3), which have left the phase of internal conditions as conceivable, fail because of the restrictions imposed by the external framework conditions.

Figure 1: Model of the influences on the action of an actor

Figure not included in this excerpt

Source: illustration by the author

In relation to this illustration, it should be noted that any chosen means, if chosen, will itself become the goal, which in turn requires other means. For example, the means of labor migration of an Indian to the Gulf States with the goal of being able to feed his family becomes the goal again when it comes to the measures (e.g. borrowing money to be able to pay the agent) to achieve this or to carry out.

According to this approach, the act of migration must go through the internal phases of target choice and choice of means, and then pass the examination of the external conditions, i.e. the possibilities of the available monetary and social capital, as well as possible legal and social restrictions.

This model is to be examined in the last chapter for its explanatory potential for the migration of Indians to the UAE.

2. History and development of migration from India to the Arab Gulf States in general and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in particular

This chapter gives a brief overview of the history of migration in the two regions or countries involved in this work. The UAE is the state with the largest foreign population in the world,[39] with Indian guest workers making up the majority of migrants with 42%. This chapter will provide an overview of immigration to the Gulf region and specifically to the United Arab Emirates. Furthermore, the history of Indian labor migration will be examined.

2.1. The history and origins of labor migration in the Gulf region

Prior to the discovery of petroleum, the Gulf region's economy was based on pearl diving, fishing, trade and, to a limited extent, agriculture.[40] Even in the 19th century, piracy was an important source of income for the Bedouin tribes living there.[41] These, also on the merchant ships of the British East India Company, which operate between Mesopotamia and India[42] Piracy was the reason for the British government to declare war on the local “pirate nests” in the middle of the 18th century. As a result of these battles, in which the entire fleet of the Qawāsim tribe was destroyed,[43] On the one hand, the British achieved the goal of ensuring the safety of their ships in the future. On the other hand, the destruction of the ships also eliminated an important competitor in maritime trade. With the stationing of soldiers in Ras Al-Khaimah, the British created a base on the Persian Gulf and from that point on they assumed an important position of power in the region. In 1820 they made the first agreements with the sheikhs of the Bedouin tribes living in what is now the UAE, Bahrain and Oman to curb piracy. The “maritime truce” that was then concluded in 1835, initially for the period of the pearl fishing season, and the resulting treaty on a permanent armistice in 1853 were important results of their efforts to ensure security in this region.[44] The British secured hegemony for the region by, for example, concluding treaties with the sheikhs of the seven emirates, which on the one hand prohibited other nations from setting up diplomatic missions (1892) and on the other hand guaranteed them exclusive rights to extract oil (1922).[45] The seven emirates, which were also referred to as contracting states (Trucial States), received the status of a British protectorate.[46] All people from other parts of the empire enjoyed British protection in the contracting states. This also affected the Indian traders staying there, whose important trade goods were spices from the south of India[47], Sugar, coffee, food but also the pearls from the Gulf region counted.[48]

When British companies made efforts to find oil in the Gulf region in the 1920s and 1930s[49] and they procured labor from their colony in India, the first Indian labor migrants came to the area.[50] For the British it was obvious to recruit their workers from a region whose inhabitants were familiar to them and also (more or less) knew their language. In addition, it was cheap labor and the bureaucratic effort of a transfer from the own colony was manageable.[51] India's independence in 1947 did not end this process of recruiting guest workers from India. It also found its continuation postcolonial. British oil drilling companies in the Gulf were recruiting an estimated 8,000 workers from India by 1950. At that time, for example, the Bahrain Petroleum Company and the Kuwait Oil Company made up between 85 and 95% of the company's employees.[52] Even then, migration and recruiting of workers were not exclusively formalized. Many Indians, mostly from the west coast of the region around Bombay, arrived on the coasts of the Gulf region with small barges and looked for employment with the oil drilling companies located there. A semi-formal way was also the following: Traders and business people, mostly of Indian origin, who had been in the region for a long time, had the government (e.g. Bahrain) issue a certificate under the pretext of wanting to expand their own business, which allowed them to buy one or to bring several other migrant workers into the country. They reached the country, paid the dealer an agreed sum and then looked for a job with an oil drilling company.[53] The “success” of the emigrants and the reports about it reaching their homeland made more Indians take this path. The relatively high wages paid in the Gulf region[54] gave them hope for a better future.[55] In the 1970s, at a time when the incomes of the Gulf states were multiplying due to the high oil price and these states were investing capital in building up their economy and infrastructure, people began to actively increase their workforce in Arab and East Asian countries recruit. In this way, the population of the Gulf States, to which the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates belong, increased rapidly from that time on. The total population of these six states in 1972 was 800,000 people. In 1975 it was already estimated at 1.71 million. Five years later, in 1980, it was already 2.82 million.[56]

Table 1: Asian immigrants to the GCC countries (in persons)

Figure not included in this excerpt

Source: Sasikumar (section 2.2.2)

Table 1 provides information on the amount of immigrants from Asia to the six GCC countries between 1977 and 1982.

2.2. Labor migration to the UAE

In the United Arab Emirates, the discovery of large oil deposits in 1958 and the export of oil from 1962 created the basis for wealth and economic development. Until the mid-1970s, the UAE, whose official amalgamation of seven individual emirates took place in 1971, benefited from oil sales and in particular from an enormous oil price increase within a short period of time (1973/1974)[57] amassed a large amount of capital. Between 1971 and 1980, oil sales in the UAE increased twenty-five times.[58] With this capital it was now possible for you to invest in the development of industry and infrastructure.[59] In the second half of the 1970s, annual growth rates of investment in the public sector were over 70%.[60] It was the declared policy of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, at that time ruler of the Emirates Abu Dhabi and thus also President of the UAE, as well as of Vice-President Sheikh Rashid, at that time ruler of the Emirates Dubai, to create a developed infrastructure[61]to provide houses for the Bedouins[62], as well as developing and diversifying the country's economy. Between 1975 and 1982, around USD 51 billion was invested in the UAE in the public sector[63]. The far-sighted idea was to have developed the economy in a differentiated manner by the time the natural resource crude oil was running out and one could no longer live on its sources of income. The diversification of the economy, which makes it independent of oil, was particularly promoted in the emirate of Dubai. An economically and infrastructurally underdeveloped empire was to become a modern industrial state. In addition to the oil-producing and oil-processing industries, the cornerstones of the economy were also trade, banking, the processing industry and, later, tourism. In order to achieve this goal and its individual projects, a large number of trained and untrained workers were needed, whose recruitment could not even come close to coming from within the own population.[64] In 1968 the population in the UAE was only approximately 180,000 people, of whom 63.5% were local.[65] The supply of workers was not only necessary for construction work to be carried out and for industry (including the oil-producing and oil-processing industries), but also for trade and all areas of the service sector. Initially, the Emirati government recruited workers mainly from other Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and Sudan. The share of the workforce from Egypt was around 60% in these early years.[66] With the start of the war between Iran and Iraq in September 1980, the UAE government sided with Iraq, although there was no agreement in all seven emirates, as there was a general fear of the Iranian Revolution and, moreover, Iran There were disputes over sovereign rights on the island of Abū Mūsā and the two Tunb Islands in the Persian Gulf. In the course of the Gulf War, many of the Arab labor migrants whose government was on the side of Iran (e.g. Yemen) left the oil-rich Gulf states.[67]


[1] Wagner (1989, 26).

[2] Kröhnert (2007, 1).

[3] See: Esser (1999, 7); See: Fuchs-Heinritz (2007, 408).

[4] Kröhnert (2007, 1f).

[5] See: Kröhnert (2007, 1f).

[6] See: Han (2006, 174); See: Massey et al. (2006, 18).

[7] The space or area can, but does not have to be, understood as a state or otherwise politically delimited.

[8] "Orsagh and Mooney (1970, p. 306) could call this thesis the" job vacancy thesis ". It is not regional differences in wage levels but differences in the availability of vacant jobs that cause migration ”Wagner (1989, 30).

[9] Han (2006, 174) and Massey et al. (2006, 18) speak in the description of the theory only of existing or non-existing capital.The addition of “labor-tying invested capital” is intended to emphasize that existing capital, if it is not invested, does not generate any demand for labor.

[10] See: Massey et al. (2006, 18f).

[11] Cf. Han (2006, 178ff) as the basis for presenting the entire theory.

[12] Han (2006, 210).

[13] See: Han (2006, 210f).

[14] See Lebhart (2002, 16f).

[15] See: Fuchs-Heinritz (2007, 432).

[16] See: Han (2006, 175).

[17] Haug (2000, 5).

[18] Kröhnert (2007, 3).

[19] See: Haug (2000.7); Note: If, however, according to Sjaastad (1962, 84f), one also includes non-monetary benefits in the calculation according to the neoclassical migration theory, one does not necessarily have to assume that the wife does not receive any additional benefit. The benefit that maintaining or improving the inter-familial climate (by avoiding separation and higher family income) brings to the woman can definitely be seen as a private benefit for the wife.

[20] Haug (2000, 9).

[21] Haug (2000, 17).

[22] See: Haug (2000, 17).

[23] Haug (2000, 17 f).

[24] See: Haug (2000, 18).

[25] Haug (2000, 19).

[26] Haug (2000, 21).

[27] Haug (2000, 22).

[28] See: Helmenstein (1997, 9).

[29] Esser describes himself as a representative of "explanatory sociology", which is a modification of methodological individualism. See Treibel (2006, 140).

[30] See Esser (1980, 13f).

[31] See Esser (1999, 15f).

[32] See Münch (2003).

[33] See Treibel (2006, 145).

[34] Resourceful, restricted, evaluating (consequences), expecting (consequences), maximizing (benefits), human.

[35] See: Esser (1999, 92 and 125); Various considerations have been made on the subject of basic human needs. The most famous example here is likely to be Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

[36] A discussion about the different concepts of basic needs and higher needs of humans should not be conducted at this point, as this would lead too far away from the topic. It should only be pointed out at this point that the author recognizes the concept of a hierarchy of needs. However, this applies with the restriction that he prefers a subjective hierarchy such as that according to Alderfer's ERG theory to a fixed hierarchy that applies to all individuals such as that according to Maslow. See Alderfer (1972).

[37] People can never be fully informed, so their expectations are always subject to a certain probability of error. "The obvious implication of the theory of rational action as an explanatory approach is the assumption that people mostly base their actions on a limited model of reality and solve their problems within this model and accordingly make their decisions selectively" Kunz (1997, 11).

[38] Esser (1999, 51).

[39] Only countries with over 1 million inhabitants are considered.

[40] See:. The Middle East and North Africa 2008 (2007, 1214).

[41] The Qawāsim tribe in particular is known for this; See: Scholz (1999, 210).

[42] The British East India Company had three main routes for trading with India. One only led around the Cape of Good Hope by water. The other two routes ran (partly by land) either over the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf. See: The British Empire: Website: www.britishempire.co.uk. (02.09.2008).

[43] See: Scholz (1999, 210).

[44] See: The Middle East and North Africa 2008 (2007, 1207).

[45] See: Scholz (1999, 210).

[46] Bahrain was also a British protectorate.

[47] 90% of Indian pepper comes from Kerala. See Bauer (1987, 67).

[48] See: Scholz (1999, 215 f). Before 1970, there were around 3,000 Indian merchant families in Dubai, which was the most important trading center in the Persian Gulf. See Rahman (2001, 17).

[49] The first oil in the region was discovered in Iran and produced by the British-Persian company APOC from 1911 onwards. After the end of World War I, the British found oil in Iraq. In 1932, the Standard Oil Company of California discovered quantities worth extracting in Bahrain. The same company found the first oil deposits on the territory of Saudi Arabia in 1933. See: The Library of Congress: Countrystudies: Internet: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/aetoc.html (02.09.2008).

[50] See: Massey et al. (2006, 137).

[51] See Sasikumar (Section 3.3).

[52] See: Sasikumar (Section 2.2.1).

[53] See Sasikumar (Section 2.2.2). The Bahraini company BAPCO is cited here as an example.

[54] In 1941, BAPCO paid its employees around twice as much as the Indian oil drilling company CALTEX in Mumbai, which in turn was already paying quite high wages by Indian standards. See Sasikumar (Section 2.2.1).

[55] At this point there is no theoretical discussion about the various motivations for migration.

[56] See Sasikumar (Section 2.2.2).

[57] In connection with the Yom Kippūr War in the Middle East, OPEC and OAPEC wanted to support the demand that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories with high price and delivery boycott policies. The oil price rose from USD 2.81 in 1973 to USD 10.41 per barrel in 1974 and then increased year after year until it fell again from 1980, when it reached a record high of USD 35.69 .

See: British Petrol: Website: www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_ english / reports_and_publications (April 26, 2008).

[58] See: The Middle East and North Africa 2008 (2007, 1215).

[59] See: Massey et al. (2006, 134).

[60] See: The Middle East and North Africa 2008 (2007, 1215).

[61] Examples of this are the construction of three international airports in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah and the expansion of the road network from 15 km in 1968 to over 2000 km in the mid-1980s. See: Scholz (1999, 224).

[62] "Until 1976 in Abu Dhabi alone, 5000 families, mostly Bedouins, received a free house as part of the first" low cost housing "program." See: Scholz (1999, 224).

[63] See: Krommer (1986, 104).

[64] See: Massey et al. (2006, 135ff).

[65] According to a survey by the British Government. See: Zachariah, Prakash, Rajan (2002, 39f).

[66] See: Massey et al. (2006, 137).

[67] See: Massey et al. (2006, 138f).

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