Next stop: Gulf Land
The attraction of the difference in currencies, which would allow savings and could potentially pull families out of poverty, is stronger than the many hardships Yemeni workers face in the region. What makes the Gulf more attractive than Europe for the majority of Yemenis is the language and cultural similarities, and of course the relative proximity.
Moreover, there is the back door of human smuggling which at times can be very dangerous, but still worth the risk for many. Hence the estimated 2,500 illegal immigrants who find their way to Gulf countries every month.
The unemployment rate in Yemen has risen over the last year to more than 50 percent. Moreover, there is a difference of at least eight million Yemenis between the number of individuals that are at working age (around 13 million) and those who are included in the economic workforce (around five million).
Additionally, according to official data the local demand for labor (public and private sectors) can absorb between 60,000 to 80,000 new arrivals annually, while the annual supply is estimated at over 200,000 new job seekers.
While we work on long term sustainable economic measures, we should also consider immediate short term ones such as promoting Yemeni labor in the Gulf region.
Other measures include promoting labor intensive activities within the country, and redirecting the performance of operating funds to focus more on poverty and employment.
However, because of the effect of having hard currency flowing into the country, the anticipated economic return of having thousands of Yemenis working in the Gulf could be potentially more effective in the short term than having hundreds of thousands working within in the country.
This was evident from the significant economic impact in 1990 when 1.5 million Yemenis suddenly returned home during the first Gulf crisis. There are several recommendations to promote Yemenis employment in gulf markets:
Creation of well organized and specialized Yemeni employment organizations with networks in the Gulf, activating existing official and unofficial commitments by Gulf countries, and improving the quality of, and customizing Yemeni labor towards, Gulf market needs.
Experience has shown that although this might sound straight forward, there will be challenges from Gulf countries as they think, ‘what is in it for them’. In 2006, Saudi Arabia sponsored the establishment of 19 vocational training centers, but they have still not been implemented.
However, if there is political will in Yemen and the Gulf countries, this proposal could be easily implemented. It’s a win-win project for both Yemen and its neighbors and could take Yemen’s economy a long way in a short time.