The early start to school holidays late last month, which many Qatar residents use as an opportunity to travel, coincided with a modest drop in the country’s population at the end of March, government statistics show.
There were 2.53 million residents within Qatar’s boundaries on March 31, down from a record high 2.55 million a month earlier, according to media reports citing figures from the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDPS).
Over the last year, thousands of expats working for major employers such as Qatar Petroleum and Hamad Medical Corp. have lost their jobs due to the slump in oil prices that’s caused businesses and state-funded organizations to cut expenditures.
While many of these expats have been forced to leave Qatar for good, overall the job losses have failed to put much of a dent in the country’s overall population growth.
On a year-over-year basis, the number of people within Qatar is still up 7.68 percent over March 2015.
In another indicator of Qatar’s growing population, government authorities continue to issue twice as many new residence permits as are cancelled each month, separate MDPS statistics show.
Some 31,331 RPs were issued in February, the most recent month for which figures are available. That’s up more than 14 percent over a year earlier.
Meanwhile, 14,249 RPs were cancelled in February, up 1.5% from the same month in 2015.
While the ministry doesn’t offer any analysis of the figures, experts frequently point to the large influx of blue-collar workers needed to help construct the roads, bridges and rail lines that are part of the massive infrastructure boom underway.
Additionally, many more laborers are needed to build the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. Officials from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said last week that the number of construction workers on its sites is expected to climb from 5,100 to 36,000 by 2018.
That’s also around when ministry experts say they expect Qatar’s population to peak as the most labor-intensive parts of the country’s construction projects are completed.