Business | Analysis

Qatar’s demographics reflect solid economy

Economically-active population grew three times in a span of seven years

  • Dr Jasim Ali, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 13:29 November 10, 2012
  • Gulf News

Qatar’s population statistics tell a great deal about economic progress in gas, oil, construction and events, to name a few such areas. The recently-released official statistics suggest that economically-active population grew three times in a span of seven years alone.

Currently, some 85 per cent of total population in Qatar is considered in the economically-active brackets. Undoubtedly, this is extraordinary, as in several Western countries merely half of the population falls within the economically-active category.

Certainly, what makes Qatar different relates to foreign workers who make up the utmost majority of the workforce and population as well. By one account, foreign nationals constitute around 87 per cent of total population and 90 per cent of total the workforce.

Of foreign workers, half are considered semi-skilled with the balance divided between highly-skilled and non-skilled. This reflects the fact that the steadily growing Qatari economy requires all kinds of foreign workers to perform diverse jobs needed.

To be sure, total population stood just above 1 million level (1.042 million to be exact) in 2006 only to reach 1.73 million in 2011. The change primarily reflects the influx of nationals from all over the world tapping opportunities in the ever-growing Qatari economy.

The official Statistical Authority puts real gross domestic product (GDP) at 13.5 per cent in 2011. The figure is down from 16.7 per cent in 2010 but remains ahead of all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states.

Amazingly, per capita income in Qatar is second to none in the world notwithstanding strong population growth rates. With a GDP of US$173 billion and a population of 1.73 million, per capita income in Qatar amounts to $100,000.

In reality, Qatar is ranked the third largest economy within the six-nation GCC after Saudi Arabia and the UAE but ahead of Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. Additionally, the per capita income would have been considerably higher but for the strong foreign representation in total population.

Clearly, limited inflation rate adds to the quality of living and working in the country. Inflation rate merely amounted to 1.9 per cent in 2011, certainly a negligible figure compared to the double-digit phenomenon not long ago.

In retrospect, Qatar’s economy experienced exceptionally high inflation rates only a few years especially in 2007, suffering from the problem of imported inflation on the back of stead rises of food prices.

In many respects, available statistics point out to staggering other facts about the country’s demographics with links and implications for the business community. Amongst positive developments, female participation rate in the work force has increased from 30.3 per cent in 2004 to 35.3 per cent in 2011. It is not wrong to connect the development to the ability of Qatari females of earning relatively high salaries by working in governmental departments.

One such famous profession for Qatari females is that of working as teachers in public schools. Still, others prefer working in general social services, putting in a few hours in return for attractive remuneration.

In reality, a sizable number of Qatari females are active investors serving as share and property owners, hence their additional contributions to the local economy. In conservative Qatar, males are expected to serve as primarily bread earners for the family.

Interestingly enough, share of Qatari nationals in private sector establishments has doubled to 8 per cent between 2004 and 2011. Still, the new rates are not impressing in normal conditions. However, the job market in Qatar is anything but normal in the absence of real unemployment amongst locals.

The statistics partly explain why all roads are leading to Qatar nowadays.

The writer is a Member of Parliament in Bahrain.

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