Crystal A. Ennis, Ph.D.

Leiden University

Country: Netherlands

About Me:

Crystal A. Ennis is a scholar of Global Political Economy whose research examines the political economy of dependency on hydrocarbon revenue & foreign labour in Gulf economies. Two key directions guide her research: 1)development plans & paths alongside the policies & practices of segmented labour markets 2)Gulf responses to changes in the global order. This has allowed Crystal to develop projects on Omani youth in the labour market, unemployment & entrepreneurship in Gulf economies, Gulf-Asia relations, rising powers, and migration from Asia to the Gulf. Crystal received her PhD from the University of Waterloo, Canada where she was trained in the fields of Global Governance and Global Political Economy. She has worked at Leiden University since 2014 where she teaches in International Relations and Middle East studies programmes. Her graduate courses include the Middle East in International Political Economy and Research Methods in Middle East studies, with undergraduate courses in the economies of the Middle East, and Emerging Economies. Crystal has published in New Political Economy, Global Social Policy, Third World Quarterly, and the Cambridge Review of International Affairs, among others.

Research Interests

Political Economy


Middle East & North African Politics

Arab Gulf States

Labour Markets

International Political Economy

Resource Dependence

Youth Employment

Migration Governance

Countries of Interest



United Arab Emirates


Saudi Arabia


Journal Articles:

(2018) The Gendered Complexities of Promoting Female Entrepreneurship in the Gulf, New Political Economy

This paper explores women’s entrepreneurial activities in the Oman and Qatar in light of the state attention given to promoting entrepreneurship in the region over the past decade. In the Gulf Arab countries, like in many rapidly developing economies, neoliberal growth discourse abounds. Along with this, the promotion of entrepreneurship and embrace of individual enterprise is paramount. Despite the dominance of the state in political and economic spaces, Gulf governments have embraced the rhetoric of the market and entrepreneurship. Drawing from semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and participant observation conducted between 2011 and 2015, this paper examines this phenomenon. In a region stereotyped with weak gender development outcomes, female entrepreneurship is largely cast as a positive development aimed at liberating and empowering women through individual enterprise. In contrast, this paper finds that the same forces that are meant to empower women often reproduce or reinforce certain gender norms while introducing new forms of dependency. Gulf female entrepreneurs confront competing tensions within three intersecting political economy logics: the structural logic of the economy, the logic of development narratives, and the logic of socio-economic organisation.

(2017) Labour market regulation as global social policy: The case of nursing labour markets in Oman, Global Social Policy

This article examines global social policy formation in the area of skilled migration, with a focus on the Gulf Arab region. Across the globe, migration governance presents challenges to multiple levels of authority; its complexity crosses many scales and involves a multitude of actors with diverse interests. Despite this jurisdictional complexity, migration remains one of the most staunchly defended realms of sovereign policy control. Building on global social policy literature, this article examines how ‘domestic’ labour migration policies reflect the entanglement of multiple states’ and agencies’ interests. Such entanglements result in what we characterize as a ‘multiplex system’, where skilled-migration policies are formed within, and shaped by, globalized policy spaces. To illustrate, we examine policies that shape the nursing labour market in Oman during a period when the state aims to transition from dependence on an expatriate to an increasingly nationalized labour force. Engaging a case-study methodology including a survey of migrant healthcare workers, semi-structured interviews and data analysis, we find that nursing labour markets in Oman represent an example of global policy formation due to the interaction of domestic and expatriate labour policies and provisioning systems. The transnational structuring of policy making that emerges reflects a contingent process marked by conflicting outcomes. We contend that Oman’s nursing labour market is an example of new spaces where global social policies emerge from the tension of competing national state and market interests.

(2015) Between Trend and Necessity: Top‐Down Entrepreneurship Promotion in Oman and Qatar, Muslim World

Entrepreneurship, innovation, knowledge economy: three buzzwords akin to their neoliberal cousins privatization, liberalization, and growth. These words are a defining characteristic of the landscape of business relations and employ-ment reform across the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. They encompass the promise, made by international financial institutions (IFIs) and consultants alike, of resolving two of the region’s major challenges: limited economic diversification and a major public wage bill. These three words are laden with objectives so difficult to attain, the region has been struggling to grapple with them since the rapid development of the 1970s. Concretely, the central concern is how can Gulf human capital transition from that which is inextricably connected to the state to that which is independent, innovative, and dynamic? Related to this and of central policy concern,how can entrepreneurship be operationalized to remedy the ills of the Gulf political economy? These worries were thrust to the forefront of the regional policy agenda as the unrest that characterized 2011 drove home the urgency of the concerns of the millennial generation in the Middle East. In this paper, I examine how the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs) in the Gulf is wedged between an international neoliberal policy agenda and a regional economy circumscribed by two interrelated path dependencies that are difficult to correct — national addictions to hydrocarbon revenue and foreign labour. Using primary data from two case studies, Oman and Qatar, I argue that entrepreneurship promotion, although cast in the language of private sector development, has thus far become another vehicle for state patronage. In fact, the mechanization of SME support by familiar rentier patterns may only be delaying a day of reckoning while in fact compounding existing fiscal and social challenges.

Book Chapters:

(2016) Situating the Gulf States in the Global Economic Redrawing: GCC-BICs relations, Palgrave Macmillan

The steady decline of oil prices in the last quarter of 2014 magnifies concerns over the fiscal health of Gulf States.1 Perpetual failure to diversify significantly has further exposed Gulf economies to risk. Despite the experiences of oil decline in the past, especially the experience of the 1980s–1990s, the region has circled back to similar questions on how to respond to economic imbalances derived from sustained dependence on natural resource export and labor import. These questions have extra resonance in countries such as Bahrain and Oman, with more limited hydrocarbon revenues and more acute socio-economic pressures. Yet, the global economy of 2015 has also changed significantly from the last sustained oil crisis. Today, emerging economies such as the BICs (Brazil, India, China), and especially Asian economies, are playing a more significant role. Compared with the mid-2000s, hydrocarbon trade with the West is declining relative to trade with Asia and, overall, the Gulf is less central to energy markets.


(2017) Entrepreneurship for Development and the SDGs, MUNPlanet

Entrepreneurship has emerged as a universal elixir for economic development and employment growth problems plaguing developing and post-crisis countries alike. Its promotion and facilitation has the potential to be a meaningful contribution for the millennial generation. Yet as it stands, the entrepreneurship for development agenda fails to overcome its neoliberal underpinnings left over from decades of global development policy that have diminished socio-economic protections for labour in the name of freeing the market. Its prescription to countries across a wide range of regional contexts with varying economic histories and unequal access to global power is unlikely to produce its promised outcomes. This short article raises three broad critiques of the entrepreneurship for development narrative with the hope that by thinking through these problems, scholars and practitioners can better understand, facilitate, and support meaningful entrepreneurship within an ethical and social-justice committed development framework.

(2014) Elusive Employment: Development Planning and Labour Market Trends in Oman, Chatham House

Oman's over-reliance on hydrocarbon revenue and foreign labour continues to challenge labour-market reform and private-sector development. This paper examines the conditions that make a national addiction to foreign labour particularly difficult to overcome, and assesses its overall impact on citizenship and the economy.