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When it comes to unlocking the talent of its workforce, Qatar fares well above most of its MENA peers, according to a new index from the World Economic Forum.

The 2015 edition of the Human Capital Report assessed 124 countries on factors such as education levels, skills and employment rates.

Regional rankings

WEF

Regional rankings

Out of the 12 MENA countries in the index, Qatar came in third, behind Israel (29th) and the UAE (54th). The three nations were the only ones in the region to make it into the upper half of the rankings.

By comparison, Saudi Arabia scored 85th, and Kuwait, 93rd. Several other Arab countries ranked near the bottom of the index, including Morocco (95th), Tunisia (98th) and Yemen (124th).

Finland was ranked first, in large part due to its strong educational system. Canada ranked 4th, the US 17th and the UK 19th.

Qatar’s score

What appeared to put Qatar ahead of many nations in the region was the growth potential of its young population.

The report broke down opportunities available to different age groups in each country, and Qatar’s rankings fared best when it came to the under-15 age group:

  • Under 15 years old: 13th (the only Arab country in the top 30)
  • 15-24 years old: 71st
  • 25-54 years old: 75th
  • 55-64 years old: 66th
  • 65 years old and over: 75th

According to the report:

“The United Arab Emirates (54) and Qatar (56) benefit significantly from the strong perceived quality of their primary schools (13th and 9th overall, respectively) and overall education systems (9th and 3rd, respectively), but also report some of the lowest tertiary and vocational enrollment rates among their 15–24 age groups in the Index.”

However, the notion that Qatar’s primary schools are well-performing was seriously challenged this week, when a new global ranking put the Gulf state near the bottom of a 76-nation-index.

Education challenges

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report examined how representative samples of 15-year-olds performed in math and science tests, ranking them relative to their peers in more than a third of the world’s nations.

Qatar came in 68th place overall. Coming only ahead of Oman (72nd), it was among the GCC’s poorest performing countries.

Education levels obtained by 25-34-year-olds in Qatar.

WEF

Education levels obtained by 25-34-year-olds in Qatar.

Still, it appears that high enrollment rates in primary education here point to the possibility that talent is being developed.

The WEF report encouraged Qatar and other Gulf nations to continue fostering that growth by ensuring more of its population go to college.

WEF’s inaugural human talent index was released in 2013. At that time, Qatar ranked 18th out of 122 nations globally, and first in the Middle East.

However, one of the report’s authors told Doha News that new methodologies were used to calculate this year’s index, so it is not comparable to the previous one.

Read the full WEF report here, and see more on Qatar below:

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Antony Satheesh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Companies in Qatar appear to be among the most optimistic about their prospects in 2015 than firms in any other Gulf country.

Despite the fall in global oil prices, which has forced many companies in the energy sector to lay off staff or instigate recruitment freezes, Qatar businesses are collectively continuing to expand, saying they plan to hire more staff while raising salaries in an effort to complete the country’s many construction projects on time.

According to the latest edition of the annual “Employment and Salary Trends in the Gulf” report by online recruitment site GulfTalent, two-thirds (66 percent) of employers surveyed in Qatar said they planned to increase their head count in 2015.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

photologue_np/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This is the highest rate in the region, and some way ahead of Saudi Arabia, where just over half (53 percent) of employers said they plan to hire.

The comparable figures for other Gulf states were 49 percent in Oman, 47 percent in the UAE and 38 percent in both Kuwait and Bahrain.

According to GulfTalent, the hiring boom in Qatar was spurred after “the uncertainty over the World Cup (was) finally removed and major infrastructure projects (got) the go-ahead.”

Last year, the report said Qatar witnessed a slowdown in recruitment due to negative international media coverage of the country’s 2022 World Cup preparations and “internal pending reviews on the awarding of the projects.”

During 2014, Qatar’s employment growth rate appeared to be among the region’s lowest, with just 38 percent of recruiters in the state saying they were hiring. Only Bahrain was lower, at 22 percent, while nearly three-quarters of Saudi employers (72 percent) said they planned to bring in new talent that year.

Poor retention

GulfTalent report 2015

GulfTalent

GulfTalent report 2015

The GulfTalent report results are based on a survey of 22,000 professionals employed by large and medium-sized firms in the GCC, as well as a survey of 600 HR managers and interviews with managers in local and international firms in the private sector. These were conducted between December 2014 and April 2015.

Its findings also include statistics from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Although Qatar is the second-most popular Gulf country for expats to work in after the UAE, it has one of the region’s lowest retention rates. This is because “the high cost of living and the ban on expatriates switching jobs prompt many to leave,” the report stated.

Figures from 2014 show that fewer than half (48 percent) of expats surveyed said they wanted to continue working in the state, compared to 88 percent of those working in the UAE and 61 percent in Kuwait. Only Oman had a worse rate than Qatar, with less than one-third (30 percent) stating they intended to remain in the country.

More money

While salaries across the region are predicted to increase this year, Qatar has the highest average forecast rises in pay of all states, at 8.3 percent.

GulfTalent 2015 report excerpt

GulfTalent

GulfTalent 2015 report excerpt

The report attributes this to Qatar’s “rising cost of living and the need to attract talent to the country.”

While the overall cost of living in Qatar has remained relatively stable for the first few months of this year, the cost of renting residential accommodation here continues to rise at a rapid clip.

According to figures published by the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics (MDPS), the cost of rents, fuel and energy went up by 7.3 percent last year.

In February this year, housing, water and electricity, which makes up the largest share of most household’s expenses, went up 0.74-percent on the previous month. If rent keeps going up at the same pace for the rest of the year, tenants would face an 8.8 percent annual rise in accommodation costs.

Oman has the next highest expected pay increase of 7.2 percent, although this is driven by an increasingly unionized workforce that is demanding wage hikes, the report stated.

Across the Gulf, those working in the construction sector are likely to see the biggest bump to their wages this year, with increases forecast at 10 percent regionally, while those in logistics can expect raises of around 7.7 percent.

The oil and gas sector is at the bottom of the table in terms of pay increases, with the regional average expected to be 5.4 percent, according to the survey.

Fewer Indians

Meanwhile, the new report also found that rapid economic growth in India will likely prompt fewer nationals from there to look for jobs in the Gulf this year.

Higher salaries and more job opportunities back home mean that emigrating to the Gulf holds less appeal for some Indians, as they seek employment in their own country, the report stated.

Indians account for the largest demographic group in Qatar, which is home to some 631,000 of the country’s nationals.

The two countries have a long and evolving relationship. During the Emir’s first recent state visit to India for example, opportunities for foreign investment and trade was one of the topics of discussion.

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Western and Arab expats in Qatar still earn more money than their Asian counterparts, but the divide has been narrowing in recent years, new data shows.

White-collar salaries were up across the board in 2014, according to an annual survey by Gulf Business of recruitment firms in the region.

The publication compares salary information for 20 management-level positions in fields such as healthcare, real estate, human resources and media in all the GCC countries.

On average, an Asian expat working in a senior position in Qatar can expect to make 77 cents for every US$1 earned by his/her Western peers. That’s up from 75 cents in 2012.

Speaking to Gulf Business, Ian Giulianotti, director at Nadia Recruitment Consultants, said:

“That gap for people being paid by their nationality is changing very slowly and people are being paid more for their ability and the job role, but I don’t think it will ever be completely eradicated, not in my lifetime anyway.”

The numbers

Western expats received the largest year-over-year salary hikes in 2014. The unweighted average salary of the 20 positions was $13,573 per month, up a little more than 10 percent over 2013.

Managerial-level expat  salaries in Qatar

Peter Kovessy

Managerial-level expat salaries in Qatar

That puts Western workers in Qatar slightly ahead of their expat Arab counterparts, who had the highest earnings among the three categories in last year’s survey.

The average monthly salary for Arab expats climbed 4 percent in 2014, to $13,021.

Asian expats, meanwhile, saw their average salary jump 9.6 percent to $10,489/month.

The hefty raises for Western and Asian wipe out pay decreases recorded in last year’s surveys. Recruiters said at the time that cost-conscious employers were making lower salary offers to incoming employees as positions turned over, lowering average compensation levels.

The salary increases recorded in the Gulf Business survey are higher than what was forecast in a report last September by consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

Using a slightly different methodology that appears to include more job positions, Aon Hewitt predicted pay packages in Qatar would increase 5.5 percent in 2014 and then go up another 5.1 percent this year.

Divided country

All forms of discrimination are theoretically prohibited under Qatar’s constitution, but there are many anecdotal reports of employers paying people different salaries for the same work based on their race.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Summerbl4ck / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For example, pay discrimination was thought to be a motivating factor for a school bus driver strike in 2013 that left many parents scrambling to find alternative transportation.

At the time, Asian drivers at the company were paid significantly less than their Arab counterparts, and the striking drivers who walked off the job demanded better treatment and higher pay.

Some Qatar residents have argued that the country is divided along racial lines. Egyptian expat and blogger Mostafa Sheshtawy wrote in 2012 that a person’s status in Qatar is directly related to their country’s international standing.

“Qatar is the country where people ask you where are you from before what is your name,” he wrote.

Another report, meanwhile, suggests that some people believe that they’ll earn more money in the Gulf if they obtain citizenship from a western country.

Last fall, Al Arabiya reported that new, tougher rules for obtaining Canadian citizenship were frustrating some Arab immigrants living in the Gulf who dreamed of briefly leaving, obtaining a Canadian passport and then returning to higher salary in the Middle East.

Does your workplace discriminate with pay based on race? Thoughts?