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This paper analyses the relationship between migration duration and occupational changes, using the case of Indian expatriates in the Gulf States. De jure, permanent migration to a Gulf state is almost impossible, leaving a (renewable) temporary work visa the only option available for Indian migrants. De facto, however, ‘temporary’ stay can last for years or even decades, and thus, questions about the factors influencing the timing of return become relevant. This analysis, based on two rounds of the Kerala Migration Survey (KMS 2008 and 2009), aims to deepen our understanding about the relationship between return migration, labour market activity and occupational change among Indian expatriates returning from the Gulf region. In particular, we investigate whether the length of stay in the Gulf depends on migrants’ occupational trajectories before, during, and after the migration experience. We find some significant effects of transitions in labour market activity on the length of stay abroad. In particular, the prospect of acquiring an occupation which entails upward social mobility (mainly in the public sector or self-employment) seems to be associated with a shorter stay in the Gulf states, whereas the prospect of post-return labour market drop-out significantly increases migration duration.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



Migration duration, occupational change, Gulf countries, Indian migration