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Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

With reporting by Shabina Khatri and Lesley Walker

Though some of Qatar’s largest companies and organizations are laying off thousands of employees, other firms here have continued adding to their headcounts, two new reports suggest.

More than 50,000 expats joined Qatar’s labor force between April and September 2015, an increase of nearly 3 percent, according to an analysis of the most recently available government statistics.

At the same time, fewer unemployed expats in Qatar reported that a lack of job opportunities was preventing them from working.

Separately, a survey of Qatar residents found that 53 percent of employed respondents said their organization had hired new staff in the last three months.

For illustrative purposes only.

For illustrative purposes only.

The report, prepared jointly by the job board and research firm YouGov, surveyed 114 working residents of Qatar. It also found that 57 percent of employed respondents believed their organization would be hiring additional staff over the next three months.

The news is likely to be of little comfort to many expats who have already lost their jobs here, some of whom have been forced to uproot their families and leave Qatar before the end of the school year.

There is also no indication that the newly created jobs pay as much as the ones that are being eliminated.

Low oil price

During the past couple of years, persistently low prices of oil have hurt the bottom line of energy companies and led to layoffs at Qatar Petroleum and RasGas. It’s also eroded government revenues and spurred budget cuts at publicly funded organizations as well as layoffs at institutions such as Hamad Medical Corp.

A snapshot of Qatar's labor force in Q3 2015.

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

A snapshot of Qatar’s labor force in Q3 2015.

While the survey said employers are looking for managers, engineers and other professionals, real estate watchers have reported an uptick in vacancy rates among luxury and mid-range apartments, as well as residential compounds.

This suggests the growth in Qatar’s workforce is being driven by the labor-intensive construction sector and blue-collar workers who typically live in labor camps or low-end accommodations.

However, at least two engineering firms as well as an American university have told Doha News that they are both laying off and hiring employees as they restructure their operations.

Photo for illustrative purposes only

US Pacific Fleet/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Project management firm Astad said its recruiting efforts “far exceeds departures of any kind.” In a statement to Doha News last month, the company said:

“The nature of our business, and indeed the industry, is for natural attrition and staff departures as projects end and are delivered to our clients. Consequently, as new clients come on board then our recruitment efforts increase accordingly.”

Similarly, Atkins said it has laid off some 100 of its 2,000 employees based in the Middle East, including an unspecified number in Qatar. However, it continues to post new job opportunities.

“We’re a large and diverse company so it’s part of the normal course of business that some areas will continue to grow, while other parts are being impacted by market uncertainty,” spokesperson Ben Thompson told Doha News.

Meanwhile, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar said in September that budget cuts had forced it to eliminate “some” positions while creating other new roles. Affected employees were encouraged to apply for the newly created roles, the school said at the time.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

More than half of would-be entrepreneurs in Qatar are put off from starting their own businesses because of a lack of financing and onerous bureaucracy, according to the results of a recent survey.

The findings come a week after Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani stressed a need to cut the red tape that has inhibited more startups from opening in the country.

The latest Entrepreneurship in MENA Survey results also come ahead of the start of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Qatar on Sunday, which brings together numerous private and public sector organizations to support small and medium-sized enterprises in the state.

According to the survey, which was conducted by online recruiters with polling agency YouGov, some 66 percent of respondents in Qatar would prefer to run their own business – slightly more than the regional average of 64 percent.

However, 59 percent of those polled said they felt it was somewhat or very difficult to do. And nearly a fifth (19 percent) admitted they had tried and failed to establish their own business.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

When asked about the hurdles facing start-ups in the country, 59 percent of respondents cited unavailability of finances, while nearly half (45 percent) blamed strict government rules and regulations.

Over a third (38 percent) said successful start-ups battled against the need to establish the right contacts, or have “wasta.”

When respondents were asked what their top concerns would be if they set up their own business today, financing again featured as the main worry and was cited by 62 percent of those surveyed.

This concern was also common in the UAE among 65 percent of respondents, and appears to be a bigger issue in Bahrain, with 71 percent of respondents citing it.

Suhail Masri, Vice President of Sales at, said the survey results showed more needs to be done to support new start-ups.

“Encouraging entrepreneurship is a huge focus for many countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa region, as it bolsters the economy and drives innovation.

While people in Qatar are keen to start their own business, financing it is still a key hindrance in achieving their aspiration. This may suggest that the region needs more investors to step in and help entrepreneurs.”

More entrepreneurs

Bedaya Center

Bedaya Center


Encouraging more young people to start up their own business has been a key focus of Qatar’s economic diversification for a number of years, with organizations such as Bedaya Center and Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC) providing support to entrepreneurs.

However, numerous reports and surveys have repeatedly cited barriers to entry for those trying to make a success of their new businesses.

For example, a survey released early last year by telecoms firm Ooredoo found that youth in Qatar have the highest entrepreneurial ambitions among their Gulf peers, but also feel the most frustrated with the legal hurdles involved in starting up a business here.

“A potential hurdle for these entrepreneurs to overcome is the legal registration and establishment of a company in their country,” the Ooredoo report authors said.

In Qatar, 64 percent of youth surveyed for that report said it was difficult yet important to address the legal restrictions related to setting up a business. That was the highest response in the entire MENA region after only Yemen, at 65 percent.

Would-be entrepreneurs in Qatar are required to have a solid financial foundation before launching a company.

To register their business, they must have QR200,000 (US$54,921) in their bank account, in addition to having signed a one-year lease for office space that’s been approved by Civil Defense – a commitment that can run above QR100,000 ($27,460).

There’s also an added burden on expats, who must have a Qatari sponsor who owns 51 percent of the company.

Emir’s call

Sheikh Tamim at opening of the Advisory Council.


Sheikh Tamim at opening of the Advisory Council.

Addressing the country’s youth last week, Sheikh Tamim urged them not to rely solely on the state but to have the drive and motivation to start up their own businesses and to have a larger role in the private sector.

The Emir said the government should help by creating favorable investment conditions, supporting startup firms and eliminating bureaucratic bottlenecks.

“Duplication among the ministries, and frequent changes in the procedures, transactions, requested forms and licenses … tend to confuse citizens, as well as local and foreign investors. Many would not venture to invest, if the investor is requested every day to fill out a new form, a new license; or if several conditions were changed many times during the submission of the application,” Sheikh Tamim added.

However, with regards to the private sector, official surveys of the labor force show that most unemployed Qataris are unwilling to work in it due to perceived unsociable working hours, a long working day, lower wages and the frequent requirement to work a six-day week.

In the latest survey, which interviewed 8,164 people from 13 countries in the GCC, the Levant and North Africa between Sept. 27 and Oct. 4., just over half (52 percent) said they preferred to work in the public sector, but this figure includes expat and Qataris.

Among those considering starting up their own business, nearly a quarter said architecture and engineering would be the most attractive sector, while hospitality and leisure was the next most popular field for 14 percent.

Would you start up your own business in Qatar? Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Ziad Hunesh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

People living in Qatar continue to be the region’s most confident when it comes to future personal wealth and economic growth, despite rising daily costs that have eroded savings for many, according to a new report.

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of Qatar respondents to the latest survey on consumer confidence in the MENA region said they believed local business conditions would improve in the coming year, making them the most upbeat of all GCC respondents.

Those from the UAE were just slightly behind, with 71 percent saying they felt similarly. Residents of other Gulf countries were less confident, but still fairly positive:

  • Oman (63 percent);
  • Saudi Arabia (59 percent);
  • Kuwait (56 percent); and
  • Bahrain (42 percent).

The confidence seems to stem in part from high expectations regarding Qatar’s economy.

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of survey respondents from Qatar said they believed the country’s economy would improve as it enters the new year.

The UAE was the only other Gulf country where the majority of residents (59 percent) felt similarly upbeat.

Meanwhile, 62 percent of Qatar job seekers said they also felt positive about their own financial circumstances improving in the coming six months – again, the highest figure among GCC respondents.

Those in the UAE came next (59 percent positive), followed by residents in Kuwait (56 percent), Bahrain and Oman (53 percent each). Just less than half of Saudi respondents (49 percent) said they believed their own situations would improve in the coming months.

More jobs

One factor that could influence economic confidence in Qatar is the perceived growth in the job market here.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

While only one third (32 percent) of Qatar residents said they felt there are currently “plenty of jobs available across all industries,” nearly half (46 percent) predicted more jobs would open up in the coming six months.

This was again one of the most upbeat outlooks in the region. While respondents in the Emirates were similarly optimistic, just one in five (21 percent) of those living in Bahrain felt the same.

Despite the expansion of Qatar’s job market to ensure it meets deadlines for various ongoing infrastructure projects, the rising cost of living continues to affect residents.

According to this latest survey, more than a third of residents (39 percent) said they were putting aside less money each month during the past year.

Daily costs up

Those working in other Gulf countries appear to be even less well off. Nearly half (49 percent) of Bahrain residents said they have seen an erosion in savings over the same period, while 46 percent in Kuwait felt the same.

Excerpt - Consumer Confidence Index Survey August 2015

Excerpt – Consumer Confidence Index Survey August 2015

Additionally, in Qatar and across the region, the expectation is that costs will continue to go up. On average, three-quarters of all respondents in the Gulf predicted that the cost of living in their country would increase in the next six months.

While 65 percent of those in Qatar were forecasting rising prices, some 77 percent of Kuwait residents predicted a more expensive time ahead.

Qatar’s cost of living had been increasing since last year due primarily to high residential rents, though economic experts are predicting a more stable end to the year.

At the end of last month, Qatar National Bank said that prices of consumer goods would remain subdued until the new year, thanks to a cooling housing market and low international food prices.

However, inflation is forecast to start rising again in 2016, and could be on average 3.8 percent next year – up from 2.4 percent forecast for the 2015 average.

If daily costs continue to outstrip increases in employees’ salaries, attracting and retaining skilled workers becomes more difficult for companies.

Elissavet Vraka, Research Manager at YouGov, said in a statement:

“Gauging consumer opinion is a powerful tool for revealing the current attitudes and sentiments about the business and economic conditions in a specific country. With the majority of people anticipating an increase in living costs and having experienced a decrease in savings, it may be time to take an evaluative look at the stability of personal financial situations.”

Consumer spending

While some are feeling the pinch from rising costs, it doesn’t appear to be putting off other residents from spending money on gadgets.

 For illustrative purposes only

Merchant Services

For illustrative purposes only

Nearly half (49 percent) of Qatar respondents said they planned to buy a car in the coming year, while more than a third (35 percent) hoped to invest in property, 28 percent were planning to buy a smartphone or tablet and almost a quarter (24 percent) a desktop or laptop computer.

There were 8,882 respondents from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria to the Consumer Confidence Index Survey, conducted from July 27 to Aug. 2.

Are you saving any more – or less – than this time last year? Thoughts?