Special Reports

Labor Migration and Deskilling in the United Arab Emirates: Impact on Cameroonian Labor Migrants’ Employment

Labor Migration and Deskilling in the United Arab Emirates: Impact on Cameroonian Labor Migrants’ Employment

Few empirical studies have examined Sub-Saharan African labour migration to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and, in particular, to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Due to growing unemployment and socio-political conflict combined within creasing immigration restrictions in the West, greater numbers of Sub-Saharan African labourers have migrated to the GCC countries as temporary labour migrants, entrepreneurs, refugees, and students. Unlike other foreign labour migrants, many Sub-Saharan Africans achieve high levels of formal education and advanced professional qualifications. Yet they often face deskilling in the UAE (accepting labour positions requiring less skill than their training), which directly impacts their social and economic contributions (i.e. remittances and knowledge transfer) to their origin countries.

Drawing from 50 in-depth qualitative interviews and newspaper/document analyses, we examine migrant labourer integration patterns as well as causes and implications of deskilling highly trained Cameroonian labour migrants in the UAE. Several causes of deskilling have been identified: (1) non-recognition of foreign credentials, (2) social and racial prejudices, (3) unorganized social network institutions and communities, and (4) an absence of the Cameroonian state embassy or consulate in the host country. These labour market constraints do not only produce economic losses and psychological and health issues, but they also reinforce their low-skilled labour segmentation in the UAE labour market. The consequences of deskilling further raise critical questions about the role of the Cameroonian state in managing contemporary labour migration as a national development strategy.

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