By Teresa Crompton
George Naufal of the Department of Economics, SBM, has a PhD in Economics from Texas A&M University, US. His main research interests are migration and the impact of remittances in Middle Eastern and North African countries, with an emphasis on the Gulf countries. His work has attracted considerable attention this year, with articles appearing in the international and regional press. He has been cited, for example, in the New York Times, The National, and Gulf News. He is also the co-author, with Ismail Genc, of Expats and the Labor Force: The Story of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). In Spring Semester 2013 he, and Co-Investigators Ismail Genc and Carlos Vargas-Silva (University of Oxford, UK), received a grant from the Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University, Qatar, for a project entitled Attitudes of Foreign Students in the GCC towards the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Students in the UAE.
Please give a brief outline of your research. What attracted you to this area of research?
My research focuses on issues around the Middle East and North Africa. In particular, I study the determinants and effects of remittance outflows from the GCC countries. What attracted me to work on the region is the dire need for research. In particular, the Gulf region is the largest remitter in the world with more than USD 70 billion in official remittances. The GCC countries are also the third most important labor migration destination in the world after North America and Europe. Despite the significant weight that the Gulf region has, the studies on migration and remittances are almost nonexistent.
Your research has attracted interest recently. Why is it so timely?
Migration as a field has gained significant interest in the last several years due to the large and increasing number of migrants in the world. As the GCC countries establish themselves as a center of economic prosperity, they attract significant flows of workers. The migration literature has taken notice of that and is now interested in knowing more about the Gulf region.
What aspects have attracted attention? Why?
The current interest of international organizations is the development impact of migration. The Gulf region is at the heart of this debate due to the large number of foreign workers, the diversity of nationalities and also the large money outflows. For example, of the questions most often asked is how moving to the Gulf affects economic development in the country of origin? Therefore, the place of the Gulf in that development process is vital.
What role do women play in migration?
The role of gender in migration and remittance has gained significant attention in the last two years due to the increase in the number of female migrants. Policy makers want to know whether females are “better” migrants than males in terms of who sends more money back home. However, let me emphasize that better data are needed to fully understand the difference in the migration and remittance behavior across gender. The Gulf region has also experienced a surge in female labor inflow. Data limitations are even more acute in the region so a lot is still needed to be done.
Have your findings surprised you?
What has been surprising to me how rich the Gulf region is in terms of topics/issues to do research on, specifically in migration, and yet how little has been done. On one hand, I am obviously not complaining, but also we owe it to the region and future generations to better understand the movement of people and their effects.
How do you see your research developing?
I am focusing lately on the effects of remittance outflows on the GCC economies. This is something of great interest to Gulf governments because of its inherent policy nature. From there, I would like to study the development effects of migration to the Gulf. That, however, requires better and more comprehensive data which are currently not available.
Teresa Compton is a Grants Writer at the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at American University of Sharjah.For more information about American University of Sharjah, please visit www.aus.edu