The Gulf countries have, for many decades, relied on expatriate workers to supply the skills needed to develop the countries of the region following the discovery of oil. The native populations have tended to lack the educational attainments and other skills required to create strong, growing economies and the countries have become dependent upon an unending source of foreign labour to fill jobs in all sectors of the economies.
However, recent years have seen local Governments trying to reduce this dependency and force their own people into the productive economy with varying degrees of success.
Saudi Arabia has the most comprehensive policy in this regard as well as the largest population and has implemented a policy of "Saudisation" which has forced many expats out of the country and placed many local people in work. The Saudi Government has now taken this one step further, by legislating a minimum wage for work, the Saudi rate being almost double that which can be paid to the expat worker.
The challenge for all the countries of the region is the same as that which has faced Australia and some of the Asian countries: how to attract the skills and talent needed to build the economy whilst retaining a strong work ethic in the local population.
In the current debate, the key challenges are the improvement of the education and training of the population and the development of a work ethic. A recent study in Qatar revealed that Qataris worked 50% of the hours worked by expat workers.
Read more about the debate here