What is the impact of the increasing expatriates in Qatar
What is the impact of the increasing expatriates in Qatar? This paper focuses on answering the above question by critically analysing the subject matter, Expatriates. I have been living in Qatar for three years. One thing which I can confidently say is that living a life of an expat is no less than an adventure, you get to learn new things each day. Life of an expat is filled with ups and downs. The most common problems faced by expats include feeling lonely, detached, culture shock, and the most severe problem, language barrier. However, looking on the brighter side, international living have benefits too. To begin with, chance to learn a new language, explore a new country, its people and culture, a good financial standing. With regards to Qatar, this country has the largest proportion of expatriate population when compared to other GCC countries. The increase in expatriate population began when oil was discovered in the 1940’s. With time, the foreign workforce outnumbered the Qatari population. The impact of this decline in national population due to the rapid growth of expatriates is a topic of discussion. While some believe that expatriates are advantageous as they can be procured at a cheaper rate, are more experienced and creative, and serve a vital source to establish international commercial ties. On the contrary, some believe that expats are a challenge to the Qatari society. These people hold them responsible for reduced number of jobs, changes in the political structure of the country, loss of cultural values and threat to national social security. This paper discusses in details how increase in expatriate population has negatively impacted Qatar. Later, it debates how increase in foreign population has upgraded the State of Qatar. The primary source of this paper is the survey that was collected from a group of 50 college students, there responses have been incorporated in the paper. The students are expatriates. The survey results is attached at the end as an appendix.
The first challenge that the inlet population face due to the expatriate population is reduced number of job opportunities. The fact that expats are easily accessible, work for a much lower salary than the nationals, companies are attracted to hire them. They occupy a large portion of non-managerial and low managerial positions in the company, leaving only mid and higher managerial jobs for the nationals. In other case, when the expatriates are more qualified, experienced and fit for certain job opportunities, cost borne by the companies increases. This is because the company not only pays a higher salary but also pay for the housing, transportation, medical insurance and education of the family. But as the status quo is concerned the unavailability of experienced and globally marketable Qatari labour force, companies are forced to undertake this additional cost. Thus, expatriate population is both impairing the employment opportunities for the nationals and somehow increasing the cost of the company when hired as managers. However, it is interesting to note that the existing unemployment rate in Qatar is 0.10 percent (“Unemployment, total (% of total labour force) (modeled ILO estimate) | Data”, 2018). The reason may be attributed to the policy initiated by the government of Qatar, known as “Qatarization”, in line with the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatarization targets positions that are integral to the business plans of private and public-sector entities. The goal is to provide 50 percent or more of Qatari citizens with meaningful permanent employment (“Qatar Foundation | Qatarization”, 2018).
Increase in the formation of social circles and political structures within Qatar, may impair the legislative structure and governance of Qatar. Five years ago, the Nepali population in Qatar was very small and most of them were employed in low-skilled jobs. However, in the past few years this has taken a complete turn as Nepalese have increased in numbers and well as in their status. The Nepali-expats association in Qatar, is an evidence. Likewise, there are many other associations and community centres of expats in Qatar. With increase in the number of population, these associations can transform into pressure groups and be extremely influential. They can ultimately force the government to modify its policies.
Over the last few years, the State of Qatar has come under increasing criticism from a wide range of human rights organizations and even the United Nations over alleged human rights abuses and a lack of rights for the country’s predominantly foreign workforce Foreign media as well as governments of the expat labor have been constantly trying to carry out investigations regarding “the kafala system”. Building of the stadiums for FIFA World cup 2020 has intensified this issue (“Qatar World Cup of Shame”, 2018).Thus, having excess of expatriates has led Qatar to global criticism, leading to hampering of its image globally.
Rising rates of expatriate population in Qatar has consistently risen a question regarding cultural identity of the country. According to the survey, 36% of the responses agree with this statement. Since culture is an inevitable part of a person’s identity, the foreigners that come to Qatar from all around the world bring their culture along. This results in many different types of culture co-existing in the Qatari society. The presence of too many people bringing in different culture can be detrimental, and can lead to cultural blending. Unfortunately, this has already began. For example, Traditional Qatari food is a surprisingly rare food experience in Qatar. Like population, ethnic foods have become more prominent including Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Italian, and American foods (“Food, Dining, & Drinks in Qatar”, 2018).
The rise of expatriate work force have also increased threats to the national security. As per the survey 24% of the students agree to this statement. The Qatar Crime and Safety Report (2017), states that although cases of murder, rape and kidnapping are relatively rare in Qatar, there are incidents of other crimes like theft especially in areas where foreign “blue collar” labours reside. Another crime that has risen due to expats is drug dealing, Marijuana. According to The Peninsula (2016), the customs department in Qatar seized 11 kilograms of marijuana from an Asian traveller. Traffic violations have also increased with the influx of migrant workers, this is because they drive like maniacs without following any traffic rules. Thus, this has led to increased road accidents from 509 in April 2017 to 558 in May this year registering a 9.6 percent increase (Bukhari, 2017).
Growth in the number of foreign population has various positive effects on Qatar. Some of these are growth in the economy, more creativity and expertise, cost effectiveness and higher scope for international trade. Frequent complaints are heard about the imbalance of the expats outnumbering the Qatari nationals as threat to its culture, heritage and traditions. But the truth remains, that Qatar would not have achieved its current position of world leader without its expat input. Major sectors of the economy ranging from households to big industries depend heavily on expats, with skills ranging from servant class to top knot officials. Qatar would have not been able to create and sustain its pace of fast development without the expat labor workforce.
Firstly, it is very cost effective for Qatar to have a labor force dominated by the foreigners. This is because they are accessible at a cheap rate. Wages and salary of labor constitute the cost of production, lower salary means lower cost of production, ultimately leading to higher profits and greater economic growth. To have labor force dominant by the Qataris is theoretically not possible, given the demographics. In addition to that, Qatari labor force requires high maintenance, higher salaries and thus is expensive for companies.
Secondly, the foreigners in Qatar come from different parts of the world with diverse backgrounds and outlook, their way of thinking is varied and unique. They are valuable intellectual resources that can be used for the benefit of Qatar. For example, Dr. Raghavan Seetharaman, the Group CEO of Doha Bank, is a major factor behind the development of the bank. Dr. Raghavan Seetharaman is an Indian. In the article by Forbes, Gupte (2007) said “Raghavan Seetharaman has wasted no time turning the once-sleepy Doha Bank into a banking powerhouse in the Middle East.” Had it not been for Dr. Seetharaman, Doha Bank would not be among the top banks in the region as it is today.
Finally, the expats living in Qatar provide scope for international relations. For any business to be successful, the enterprise is required to develop connections with people. Qatar is small world in itself with expats from all around the world living, these expats bring along more than just their presence, they bring in foreign relations. Government officials from different countries come on tours, initiating strong political, social and economic relations.
Finally, Qatar’s dream of being the host country for FIFA World Cup 2020, would not have been possible without the presence of the expat labor force who are working day and night help Qatar achieve its dream.
The impact of expatriates outnumbering the local Qatari population is an issue that needs to be addressed critically. It can be understood that the presence of foreigners can be both boon and bane for Qatar. It is however, important to recognize both the positive and negative effects and take steps to ensure that the overall net effect of this growing rate of expatriates is positive and developmental. 47 respondents agree that expatriate population is healthy for Qatar, while only 3 responses have a neutral approach.