Im/mobile highly skilled migrants in Qatar*

Zahra Babar, Michael Ewers, Nabil Khattab*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Most studies on the mobility of highly skilled migrants have been examined with a framework of global talent mobility and under conditions of neoliberal governance and economic globalization. In this study we challenge the notion of the hypermobile knowledge worker. Utilizing mixed methods, we examine the factors that attracted highly skilled migrants to Qatar and the conditions under which they might leave in the future. Rather than finding a group of footloose migrants attracted primarily to high-wage jobs, a lack of taxation or amenities, and with multiple alternative locations of residence, we find that highly skilled migrants exist on a spectrum of immobility. More significantly, this immobility depends on the migrant’s region of origin. For Asian and Western migrants immobility is attributed to the Kafala system or employer sponsorship, which hinders occupational and spatial mobility and ties workers to their sponsors. Arab highly skilled migrants are especially affected by lack of security and stability in their home countries, which makes these workers involuntarily immobile. The former group seem to be willing to accept a reduced level of agency and mobility for high income, whereas for the latter security and stability are more fundamental to their decision to come to Qatar.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Early online date10 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jul 2018

Structured keywords

  • SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship


  • Highly skilled migrants
  • Kafala system
  • migration
  • mobility
  • Qatar


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