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Peter Kovessy

Home builders in Qatar are unable to keep pace with the country’s rapidly growing population, leading to housing shortages and rising rents, according to two new reports.

While actual prices vary depending on the size, location and quality of the unit, recent research by Qatar-based Al-Asmakh Real Estate Development found residential rents increased five to 10 percent in the first three months of the year, compared to the end of 2013.

A separate report by real estate services firm Colliers International puts the average increase slightly lower, at four percent, during the same time period.

Despite these increases, average rental rates are still below the peaks reached in 2008, which was followed by several years of declines before the market began heating up again in 2012.

Rental costs by area

Currently, high-end three and four-bedroom villas in Onaiza and Al Waab currently cost renters roughly QR18,000 a month, according Al-Asmakh.

Similar sized villas in Madinat Khalifa, Gharrafa, and Al Hilal are slightly less expensive, at QR13,000 to QR15,000 per month.

The firm found that average rental rates for two-bedroom apartments, meanwhile, stand at QR15,500 in the Pearl-Qatar and QR14,500 in West Bay.

However, Colliers’ estimates for two-bedroom apartments in those two neighborhoods are marginally lower, and its report adds that two-bedroom units average QR8,000 in Al Saad and roughly QR7,500 in Old Airport.


According to the two companies, market forces are set to put further upward pressure on rents in the coming years as demand for housing greatly outstrips supply.

Colliers estimates 22,000 new homes will be constructed by 2018, adding to Qatar’s existing housing stock of 122,000 units. However, demand for housing is set to reach 266,000 units – excluding labor camps – during the same time frame, the company estimates.

“Doha’s residential real estate market will continue to remain significantly under-supplied over the next five years,” Colliers says.

Meanwhile, a government crackdown on illegally partitioned villas is likely to exacerbate the shortage. Inspectors are stepping up their enforcement of laws prohibiting unauthorized modifications of homes.

Many middle-income expats rent rooms within divided villas to lower their housing costs and live closer to their workplaces.

The government says that these illegal alterations pose a safety hazard, but expats living in them say that they are the only kinds of housing they can afford.

Labor camps

Al-Asmakh’s report also raises questions over whether there are enough accommodations for low-income expats, despite a recent spurt of new projects.

The infrastructure building boom underway in advance of the 2022 World Cup is expected to require a massive influx of foreign labor.

Government estimates suggest the country’s population will surge 15 percent this year alone to reach 2.4 million residents.

Al-Asmakh estimates Qatar needs to recruit another half-million blue-collar workers to construct the buildings and infrastructure projects that have already been publicly announced.

However, by its calculations, the labor camps planned and under construction can only accommodate 100,000 additional individuals.

Those figures include Barwa’s massive “Worker’s City” in the Industrial Area – formally known as Barwa Al Baraha – which is scheduled to see its first residents early next month.

Furthermore, tightening living standards for workers mean labor camp landlords will be limited in how many individuals can be accommodated in each unit.

Standards for contractors working on World Cup or Qatar Foundation projects ban companies from installing bunk beds and can only house up to four workers in a room.

Additionally, government officials promised unspecified universal rules for workers’ accommodations as part of proposed reforms to Qatar’s kafala, or sponsorship, system announced last month.

This, Al-Asmakh says, combined with the forced exodus of laborers from residential areas and the growing population, will only add to the demand for new labor camps:

“As per our estimate nearly 500,000 to 800,000 new beds would be required to accommodate the inflow of new workers to the country and existing laborers which would need to be migrated from housing units and poorly managed labor camps.”



Last month proved to be the deadliest month on record for Nepalese expats in Qatar, with 32 deaths in all. Most of the deceased were construction workers in their 20s who died of cardiovascular disease, a Nepalese embassy official told Doha News.

When asked what could prompt the men to develop heart problems at such an early age, Second Secretary Harihar Kant Poudel cited working conditions as the main issue:

“Many workers are going without meals, and without enough water, then they are working in high temperatures all day. The weather here is different from our country. Our nationals are not used to it.”

Poudel confirmed a report in the Peninsula that 13 Nepalese laborers died in July from different cardiovascular disorders. Some 11 more perished in road traffic accidents and eight further deaths were attributed to falls and other on-site accidents.

He added, however, that some deaths are ruled to be caused by heart problems to cover up on-site accidents.

There have been cases where we have suspected that there has been a mutual understanding between the doctor and the company, and the doctor has made a false report saying that they died of cardiac arrest – it is easier for a company to say they died of that.”

Though companies are not allowed to make outdoor employees work between 11am and 3pm during the searing summer months, laborers in Qatar still remain at high risk of heat stroke, which can be fatal if not treated quickly.

Qatar is becoming increasingly reliant on blue-collar Nepalese expats. A recent study on the lives of migrant workers found that 39 percent of all low-income workers in Qatar are Nepalese.

Meanwhile, Qatar and the rest of the GCC are becoming a less popular option for Indian expats. The number of workers from southern India moving to the region has declined by more than 75 percent since 2008, according to Arabian Business.

Better salaries and conditions back home in India are among the reasons thought to be behind the change.


Credit: Photo by Penny Yi Wang


Late wages, significant debts and inconsistent access to healthcare are common problems facing Qatar residents in low-income brackets, according to a new report that delves into the daily lives of this oft-overlooked group.

A Portrait of Low-Income Migrants in Contemporary Qatar,” which was published this summer in the Journal of Arabian Studies, is based on a survey of nearly 1,200 mostly male migrant workers who earn less than $549 (QR2,000) a month. The men work mostly as construction workers, drivers, cleaners, security guards and salesmen.

The report, which builds on previous studies by Qatar University, was led by an assistant professor from an American university in Washington, with contributions from academics at QU and Carnegie Mellon University Qatar.

In a statement, lead author Andrew Gardner, an anthropology professor at the University of Puget Sound, said that he hopes the research will spur change in Qatar and the region as a whole:

“We recognize that the experiences and challenges of these migrant workers are growing areas of concern for both Qataris and the rest of the world.

This study seeks to provide all of us—Qatari ministries, researchers, non-government organizations, and human rights activists—with better information that can help guide reform.”

Among the most interesting pieces of information in the report is the first breakdown of the ethnicity of the country’s low-income workforce.

Some 39 percent of those interviewed were from Nepal; 29 percent from India; 9 percent from Sri Lanka; 9 percent from Bangladesh; 5 percent from the Philippines; 3 percent from Pakistan; and 3 percent from Egypt. The remaining 2 percent was comprised of small groups of nationals from unspecified countries.

Despite the fact that this group of workers is often labeled as “bachelors,” 72 percent were married at the time of the survey, and supporting an average of 2.4 children in their home countries.

The study also found that, despite laws banning the practice, 90 percent of laborers reported that their employers had possession of their passports. The report does note, however, that “some migrants were content with the status quo, particularly since they felt they had no secure location at their labor camps in which to store important documents like the passport.”

Furthermore, 56 percent reported not having been issued a government-mandated Hamad health card, necessary for accessing free healthcare.

Debts and broken promises

The report also details the debts that many workers accrue when trying to secure a job in Qatar. Migrants paid an average of $1,031 for a work visa, with 56 percent finding their jobs through a labor broker in their home countries.

Only 44 percent of the workers signed a contract before emigrating, and of these, most (78 percent) were required to sign another one once they’d arrived.

The report also found that 15 percent of respondents said the job role they’d been promised had changed once they got to Qatar, and 20 percent found their promised salary had been altered.

However, the authors found that workers whose jobs had been “switched” were only marginally less satisfied with their roles than those who were unaffected, suggesting that such changes are not always regarded as a huge issue by the workers in question.

Some 21 percent also said their wages were “sometimes, rarely, or never” paid on time.

Quality of life

The report also inquired about the workers’ living arrangements. Most (40 percent) live in dormitory-style camps, while 25 percent share villas, 16 percent share apartment flats and 17 percent living in portacabins – all with an average of six people sharing a room.

A small percentage of those questioned reported serious problems with their accommodation. Five percent said they sometimes or never had sufficient water, two percent reported that they sometimes or never had a sufficient supply of electricity at their camp, and two percent said they had regular periods without air-conditioning.

Here’s the full report:


Credit: Photo by Richard Messenger