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Historical information on the population

Drums being tuned for a razeef

The need for population statistics is central to any form of planning. Without knowing who the planning is for, their numbers and characteristics particularly in terms of age, sex and nationality, as well as understanding the capability of the private and public institutions to provide for them, it is impossible to form sensible policies with regard to land uses, transport systems and their disposition and rates of development. Certain issues are common to all countries, but the Gulf states have characteristics which differentiate them from many other parts of the world. In particular, the relatively young population, the high proportion of males and the number of ex-patriates comprising the majority of the population need careful consideration if they are to be catered for effectively.

Two organisations have a particular responsibility for planning the State of Qatar. The Planning Council, which was established on the 6th June 1998, and has the responsibility for:

  • preparing economic and social policies and plans in line with the principles and guidelines specified by the basic statute of the State, and following up the implementation of these policies and plans after they have been ratified by the Council of Ministers,
  • expressing its views in the form of recommendations submitted to the Council of Ministers following their ratification by H.H. the Emir, and
  • submitting a detailed annual report to the Emir on various projects included in the State֜s economic and social plan, explaining the extent and scope of success and achievements, and making recommendations resolving any difficulties.

and the Central Statistics Office, established in the 1980s.

The Planning Council is responsible for the strategic planning of the State, though its recommendations have to be approved by the Council of Ministers and H.H. the Emir. Their remit appears to concentrate on the operations and organisation of government structures, together with the coordination of information systems.

The Central Statistics Office is the central organisation for development and collation of the statistics that used to be the resonsibility of different Ministries. As such it has a pivotal role in the production of accurate figures on which the State can make decisions. One of the most important of these areas is that of population which has often been a little difficult to establish.

Early settlement

badu have used the Qatar peninsula for centuries, taking advantage of the sparse resources there to feed themselves and their families while maintaining their territorial interests with regard to other families in Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. This area should be read in conjunction with this in order to obtain a broader understanding. There may be minor inconsistencies…

Culturally, Qatar is related to the southern part of the Arabian/Persian Gulf and its adjoining mainland. For many centuries there seems to have been no real settlement in the peninsula though, by the end of the nineteenth century there were littoral settlements inhabited in the main by Arabs and immigrants from Persia, but little or nothing in the interior. This was the province of the badu tribes.

The main tribes in the region of the Qatar peninsula

Although many of the badu tribes are now settled, there is still some movement. Incidentally, I should mention that the term badu is generally used to refer to those who are not settled. This is an increasing problem with regard to nationality which is discussed a little further here.

There have been two main groups of badu tribes using the Qatar peninsula:

  • a group which moves in and out of the peninsula – the Bani Hajir, Al Manasir, Al Murrah, Al Awamir and Al ’Ajman, and
  • one which moves within a relatively small part of the peninsula, the Al Na’im and, to a lesser extent, the Al Ka’aban.

The reason for this is historical, having to do with tribes and their inter-relationships.

The Bani Hajir

The Bani Hajir were the main badu group living in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia and their pattern of movement seems to have been governed both by their wide territorial interests as well as by the need to move relatively frequently.

The Al Manasir

The Al Manasir lived in the region covering the area between the south of the Qatar peninsula and the Buraimi oasis in what is now the United Arab Emirates. The Al Manasir were neighbours of both the Bani Hajir and Al Murrah and based themselves in the Liwah oasis – between the Buraimi oasis and the Qatar peninsula – in summer, and the Qatar peninsula in winter.

The Al Murrah

Further inland from the Qatar peninsula was the area used by the Al Murrah who inhabited the south part of the Al Hasa district, and who lived deeper into the Saudi peninsula than the Bani Hajir.

The Al Awamir

The Al Awamir were a tribe living in the area between the Oman and towards the Rub’a al Khali, south of the Liwa oasis.

The Al Ajman

I should also mention the Al Ajman, a tribe living in Al Hasa in the area north and west of the Bani Hajir and who were occasional visitors to the Qatar peninsula.

The Al Na’im

The area of the Qatar peninsula used by the Na’im tribe

By the mid eighteenth century the main settlements in Qatar were those associated with two tribes, the Al Thani and the Al Khalifah. Very crudely the Al Thani, settled at Al Doha and Al Wakrah, controlled the east side of the peninsula but the Al Khalifah, settled on Al Zubarah controlled the north-west, and the Al Na’im were associated with the Al Khalifah.

The Al Na’im were related to the The Al Na’im of Oman but left centuries previously at the invitation of the Al ’Utub, the tribe from which the Al Khalifah came. They settled in the Qatar peninsula, wintering on Qatar but, in summer, some of them moving to the north of Bahrain and some to near Al Doha.

With time the Al Na’im stayed on the Qatar peninsula all year though this was only after 1937 when there was a split in the tribe. The Al Ramzan who had sided with the Al Thanis remained on the peninsula and the Al Jabr, who sided with the Al Khalifa of Bahrain in their disagreement over Al Zubarah – but lost, emigrated via Bahrain to Al Hasa, eventually returning to their traditional grounds in the north-west of Qatar where they moved around during the year. In summer they stayed around their wells near the coast and, in winter, moved further inland to graze their animals.

With reference to many of the tribes it is interesting that some of their members still remember their tribal histories and harbour feelings that they should enjoy a more important place in the peninsula’s society than they feel they do. This, presumably, is one of the many issues which the ruling family must bear in mind in their dealings with individuals and the history and relationships each represents.

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Qatar’s population

The main tribes settled in the Qatar peninsula

The population of Qatar, in common with most of its neighbours, was relatively small until the explosion caused by the development of oil and gas, and the accompanying immigration of expatriates in large numbers to service the activities associated with the development of those resources. In 1939 there was estimated to be a total population of about 28,000, which can be compared with the estimates made in 1908 by Lorimer of between 26,000 and 27,000 of whom 20,000 were nationals. The group accounting for much of this increase were thought to be of Persian origin. However, the Second World War with the concomitant regional instability and economic hardship saw the population reduce through the thirties and forties to about 16,000 by 1949.

Here, to the side, is a diagram showing the location of the main tribes who settled in the Qatar peninsula. It is based on the work of Lorimer and I have very much simplified the diagram in Ferdinand’s work on the badu of Qatar from which it is taken. The diagram illustrates the disposition of the main settled families, but bear in mind that the peninsula by this time was under the control of the Al Thani family who were settled in Rayyan, Doha and Wakrah.

It is significant that the main tribes are settled on the east of the peninsula, though with the exception of the north-west of the peninsula where Bahrein still had influence, and the east side of the peninsula which was more inaccessible by sea.

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The inhabitants of Qatar

Tribe or community

Where found in Qatar – date







Aynayn (Al bu) Wakrah 2000  
Ali (Al bin) Doha 1,750 1,750
Amamarah Doha and Wakrah 200 200
Arabs of Nejd Doha and Wakrah 500 500
Baharinah Doha and Wakrah 500 500
Baqaqalah Doha 50 50
Dawasir Doha 150 150
Hamaydat Lusail and Dhaayn 250 250
Huwalah Doha and Wakrah 2,000 2,000
Khalayfat Wakrah 850 850
Kibisah Khor Hassan, Fuwayrat, Hadiyah and Sumaismah 700 700
Kawarah (Al bu) Sumaismah, Dhaayan and Fuwayrat 2,500 2,500
Maadhid Doha, Wakrah and Lusail 875 875
Madhahakah Dhaayn a few a few
Mahanadah Khor Shaqiq and Dhakhirah 2,500 2,500
Mananaah Abu Dhaluf and Doha 400 400
Maqla (Al bin) Wakrah 50 50
Musallam (Al) Doha, Fuwayrat and Wakrah 40 40
Negroes (free) Doha and Wakrah 2,000 2,000
Negroes (slaves, but not living in their masters’ houses) Doha and Wakrah 4,000 4,000
Negroes (slaves living with their owners) Are reckoned in this table to the tribe in which they are owned
Persians Doha and Wakrah 425 5,000
Sadah Ruways and Doha 350 350
Sudan Doha 400 400
Sulutah Doha 3,250 2,500
Yas (Bani) of the Al bu Falasah and Qubaysat sections Doha and Wakrah 125 125

Taken from The Creation of Qatar

By 1945 the population of Qatar had dropped to around 25,000, firstly in response to the finding of oil in Bahrein in 1932 and, secondly – and more particularly – as a direct result of the trade blockade imposed by Bahrein because of their dispute with Qatar’s Abdullah bin Qasim over the ownership of Zubarah on the Qatar mainland – land the Bahreinis claimed as theirs despite the decision of the British Government in 1865 confirming it as belonging to Qatar.

In 1971, immediately prior to Independence, a British Government assisted census was made in Qatar estimating that the total population was 120,000 of whom 42,000 were Qataris. This figure represented a percentage average increase of about 2.1% for the Qatari population and presumably represented a strongly increasing percentage as Qataris returned to the new wealth available in Qatar and the live births over death rates increased. The census was not published. A number of other estimates were made around this time giving a population of between 79,000 and 126,000 and there have been constant difficulties caused by there not being an accurate, published census usable in planning the development of the country.

A sample survey was made in 1982 by the Central Statistics Office and followed up in 1986 by a full census, though the number of Qataris was not disclosed. The published census figures gave the total population in 1986 as being 369,079 – a 200% increase in fifteen years. A 1990 estimate raised this slightly to 371,000 of whom 70,000 were nationals and, in July 1992, another estimate raised the figure to 484,387. These figures were obtained from the Library of Congress where more details can be found. There are two significant points to make: firstly that, due to the large number of expatriate workers in the country, there is a relatively high male population – about two thirds are male – and, secondly, the natural increase in population for 1989 calculated on births over deaths is 29.3 per 1,000, a high rate for a developing country.

It is evident from the foregoing that the population numbers are a little dubious, and that the rates of increase are difficult to calculate or, indeed, rely on. However, it has to be admitted that the figures come from different sources and there is no reason not to believe that the Central Statistics Office does not have a grasp on the correct figures, and that they are being used in planning for the future.

It is important to know how large the population is for the purposes of providing for them but, at the end of the nineteen eighties, the Qatari population – for whom a wider range of provisions are made – was not easy to calculate. Nor was it easy to see how the developing aspects of the region would have their affect upon the future total population of Qatar. Strategic planning was a problem.

Although a large number of expatriates left due to the economic difficulties the country faced following the drop in the price of oil, the CSO stated that the increasing Qatari population, together with a net increase in expatriates, continued to expand the overall population to something over 400,000 in mid-1989. If this was so then it was likely to be at the lower service areas of the population where individuals obtain a relatively low wage.

The American State Department estimated that Qatar had a population in 2002 of about 650,000, of whom 150,000 are Qatari nationals. This implies a growth of slightly less than 4.1% on the 1970 Census figure – a lower rate than any of the scenarios considered by the first planning team to begin the process of planning for the future of the State in the early seventies. Their latest figure is estimated at 824,729 for July 2008.

The Planning Council stated that the 1997 census enumerated a population of 522,000 and the 2004 census – taken on the 16th March 2004 – showed an increase to 744,000 giving an annual increase of 6% from 1997 to 2004, ascribed to the strong economic growth.

The population of Qatar is mostly urban nowadays. 88% of the population is urban with 84% of the population concentrated in Doha and Rayyan, the other two main towns being Al Wakrah and Umm Said, both of them to the south of Doha.

The 1986 census also gave a snapshot of the population profile showing that two-thirds of it was male and that the age breakdown was:

less than 15




over 60






27.8% 29.3% 32.3% 8.6% 2.0%

The General Secretariat for Development Planning has published the following, taken from the 1986 and 1997 Population and Housing Censuses:










Population 369,000 522,000 744,029
Male 248,000 342,000 496,382
Female 121,000 180,000 247,647
Labour force 201,000 286,000
Male 181,000 246,000
Female 20,000 40,000

Social and vital statistics

Total registered live births 12,118 12,200 12,856
Male 6,186 6,261 6,564
Female 5,932 5,939 6,292
Total deaths 1,210 1,220 1,311
Male 831 855 896
Female 379 365 415
Natural increase 10,908 10,980 11,545
Marriages 2,194 2,351 2,550
Divorces 566 732 790

What is significant about the published statistics is that there is no breakdown between the national and expatriate populations, figures which are vital in their use to an effective planning system, though an area where there have been difficulties expressed throughout the Gulf.

The figures also contain eccentricities which might not be readily understood. For instance, the relatively low figures ascribed to marriages is likely to be because the majority of marriages will be between nationals or with a national as one of the partners.

It may be that the statistics are unavailable to those following links as I have not been able to update many of them. At the same time there seems to be some conflict between statistics I have previously taken from the site and those recently looked at. For instance, there are an interesting group of tables setting out the population statistics for those of fifteen years of age and over. Here is a summary which reveals interesting trends:

Population 15+ by relation to workforce, nationality and sex














* 2001


* 2007

* 2008

* 2009










Qatari Male   26,879   41,863   30,345   54,482   40,418   42,863   45,410
  Female   27,624   43,039   10,851   55,923   21,289   24,829   25,463
  Total Qatari   54,503   84,902   41,196 110,405   61,707   67,692   70,873
non-Qatari Male 168,363 229,900   237,981 356,734   686,454   1,002,405   1,092,970
  Female   43,761   69,516   33,634 109,272   79,641   97,968   98,420
  Total non-Qatari 212,124 299,416   271,615 466,006   766,095   1,100,373   1,191,390
Total male 195,242 271,763   268,326 411,216   726,872   1,045,268   1,138,380
Total female   71,385 112,555   44,485 165,195   100,930   122,797   123,883
Grand total 266,627 384,318   312,810 576,411   827,802   1,168,065   1,262,263

* These columns taken from different tables of the Qatar Information Exchange site – ‘Economically active population (15+) by nationality, sex and economic activity’ and should, but may not be, directly comparable with the other columns.

More detailed information is given on this chart though it should be treated with care as it deals only with the years 1986, 1997 and 2004.

There are a number of points to note in the figures given above. The first is that the figures for Qataris for the years 1997 and 2004 seem inconsistent, and I have no information that would explain them. Guesses might usefully be made, but I shall not do so here.

The next thing to notice is that the percentage of Qataris to non-Qataris in the workforce for 2009 were 4.15% and 25.87% for men and women respectively, and with a total of 5.95% Qataris to non-Qataris in the total working population. Put differently, over 94% of the working population are not nationals.

The Qatari workforce of fifteen and over in 2009 had a preponderance of males to females of around 9:5, while the non-Qatari workforce – as you would expect – had a considerably larger proportion of around 10:1. Of this non-Qatari workforce, the proportion of men to women is increasing reflecting, for the most part, the burgeoning of the construction industry. However, as you would expect, there is more interest in the details.

Economically active population (15+) by nationality, sex and economic activity for the year 2009

Nationality and sex











Statistical group














Agriculture, hunting and forestry 0 0 16,955 0 16,955 0
Fishing 0 0 2,822 0 2,822 0
Mining and quarrying 4,445 727 54,993 2,609 59,438 3,336
Manufacturing 842 78 107,538 328 108,380 406
Electricity, gas and water supply 1,754 306 4,054 44 5,808 350
Construction 864 64 554,740 3,398 555,604 3,462
Wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and households goods 708 94 133,275 4,281 133,983 4,375
Hotels and restaurants 16 0 20,272 4,652 20,288 4,652
Transport, storage and communications 1,072 632 46,988 7,208 48,060 7,840
Financial intermediation 1,437 1,308 10,389 2,288 11,826 3,596
Real estate, renting and business activities 813 225 43,222 2,066 44,035 2,291
Public administration and defence, compulsory social security 28,122 8,424 27,325 937 55,447 9,361
Education 1,809 9,633 11,420 8,243 13,229 17,876
Health and social work 1,653 3,423 12,677 12,337 14,330 15,760
Other community, social and personal services 1,841 549 12,347 1,650 14,188 2,199
Domestic services 0 0 32,195 48,147 32,195 48,147
Regional and international organizations and bodies 34 0 1,758 232 1,792 232
Total 45,410 25,463 1,092,970 98,420 1,138,380 123,883

While the construction industry is the largest of the seventeen statistical groupings comprising 44.29% of the 2009 workforce of 1,262,263, it is significant that only 928 male and female Qataris, or 0.17%, work in this group. Compare that with the group which includes public administration, defence and compulsory social security where 56.4% of the total of 64,808 are Qataris, this supporting a number of views reflected in the statistics relating to tertiary education.

By the end of 2013, statistics were made available from the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics relating to the labour force and noting that, at the end of the year there were 1,545,458 persons economically active – this from the 1,761,667 who were aged fifteen and above, and representing 87.7%.

Workforce – aged 15 and over






Men   64,220 25,775 89,995
Women   32,004 58,612 90,616
  Sub-total 96,224 84,387 180,611
Men   1,287,680 26,571 1,314,251
Women   161,554 105,251 266,805
  Sub-total 1,449,234 131,822 1,581,056
Men   1,351,900 52,346 1,404,246
Women   193,558 163,863 357,421
  Sub-total 1,545,458 216,209 1,761,667

Note that approximately 10% of the work force is Qatari, and that there are twice as many Qatari males working compared with Qatari females, the reverse being approximately the case with Qataris who are inactive.

However, of those who are economically inactive it is significant that there are totals of 81,519 students and 107,173 homemakers, as the report terms them.

Of the Qatari students, there are 22,618 females compared with 14,465 males, which appears to illustrate how popular tertiary education is for women compared with men. Of non-Qatari students the corresponding numbers are 19,769 females and 24,667 males. While there is almost parity for Qatari and non-Qatari females in education, the figures suggest two important characteristics. Firstly, that it is likely to be more difficult for women to enter and remain in the country for their education and, secondly, that male Qatari students are in a significant minority not only to female students, as noted, but particularly to male non-Qatari students.

Interestingly the survey calls out the percentages of unemployed Qataris who would be willing to work in the private sector. That this should have been called out is indicative of concerns in government for a more natural distribution of nationals within the economy, an issue common to most of the region.

Willingness for unemployed Qataris with secondary education to work in the private sector






Willing   146 178 324
Unwilling   322 826 1,148
Total   468 1,004 1,472

Reasons given for unwillingness to work in the private sector

Unwillingness to work in the private sector

First it is has to be stated that it is not known how the questions were established and applied, a process which can easily skew results and influence policies derived from them.

Note that although the proportion of men unwilling to work in the private sector is given as a little over 2:1, the unwillingness of women to work in the private sector is more than double that – well over 4:1. This is likely to be due to a number of factors. The most obvious and traditional reservation might be expected to be the unwillingness of women to mix with the wider society, particularly expatriates which might generate a certain amount of disrepute; it may also be due to women anticipating their future family life disrupted; and it might be that they are reflecting not necessarily their own feelings but those of their families and social groups.

But it is instructive to see the reasons given in the survey, illustrated in this pie chart. Carried out in interviews with 450 people, 737 responses were noted. The replies indicate the apparent overwhelming concern with work practices, three-quarters of the responses being concerned for the days, hours of work and the timings of work in the private sector. If the questions were not neutral in their effect, if this is an accurate reflection, and if it is based on the respondents’ comprehensive understanding of the realistic operations of the private sector, it must be of small comfort to government.

more to be written…

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Population statistics for 2008-2016

Since October 2008, the Qatar Statistics Authority has been publishing population figures on their website. The manner in which they do so changed in October 2015 and now is given a month in arrears. However, you will see that there has been a considerable leap in the population, and that the proportion of males to females is over three to one. The Authority’s monthly preliminary figures for the population by month are given here with a percentage difference from the previous month:





% change


October 1,185,575 355,555 1,541,130
November 1,210,566 358,618 1,569,174 + 1.82 %
December 1,203,381 350,348 1,553,729 – 0.98 %


January 1,219,191 341,786 1,560,977 + 0.47 %
February 1,256,955 368,768 1,625,723 + 4.15 %
March 1,274,349 372,743 1,647,092 + 1.31 %
April 1,275,419 374,720 1,650,139 + 0.18 %
May 1,277,551 375,057 1,652,608 + 0.15 %
June 1,258,852 350,051 1,608,903 + 2.64 %
July 1,204,753 297,621 1,502,374 – 6.62 %
August 1,247,644 349,908 1,597,552 + 6.34 %
September 1,248,668 375,056 1,623,724 + 1.64 %
October 1,278,308 388,545 1,666,853 + 2.66 %
November 1,225,487 354,563 1,580,050 – 5.21 %
December 1,254,092 377,636 1,631,728 + 3.27 %


January 1,282,978 398,121 1,681,099 + 3.03 %
February 1,281,131 397,979 1,679,110 – 0.12 %
March 1,279,547 397,498 1,677,045 – 0.12 %
April 1,270,968 399,421 1,670,389 – 0.40 %
May 1,274,013 404,555 1,678,568 + 0.49 %
June not available not available not available
July not available not available not available
August 1,213,556 365,429 1,578,985 – 5.93 %
September 1,235,716 406,519 1,642,235 + 3.77 %
October 1,246,593 417,682 1,664,275 + 1.34 %
November 1,231,565 415,479 1,647,044 – 1.04 %
December 1,228,635 408,808 1,637,443 – 0.58 %


January 1,258,462 427,565 1,686,027 + 2.97 %
February 1,259,597 425,988 1,685,585 – 0.03 %
March 1,254,812 424,021 1,678,833 – 0.40 %
April 1,261,969 430,293 1,692,262 + 0.80 %
May 1,269,633 433,815 1,703,448 + 0.66 %
June 1,234,683 390,078 1,624,761 – 4.62 %
July 1,225,258 374,065 1,599,323 – 1.57 %
August 1,182,025 371,785 1,553,810 – 2.85 %
September 1,263,225 437,994 1,701,219 + 9.49 %
October 1,276,976 445,540 1,722,516 + 1.25 %
November 1,277,186 445,832 1,723,018 + 0.03 %
December 1,271,194 436,562 1,707,756 – 0.89 %


January 1,301,089 458,138 1,759,227 + 3.01 %
February 1,303,488 456,733 1,760,221 + 0.06 %
March 1,314,672 458,882 1,773,554 + 0.76 %
April 1,327,091 465,043 1,792,134 + 1.05 %
May 1,330,581 465,247 1,795,828 + 0.21 %
June 1,303,064 419,374 1,722,438 – 4.09 %
July 1,303,829 409,437 1,713,266 – 0.53 %
August 1,278,644 408,529 1,687,173 – 1.52 %
September 1,363,688 480,588 1,844,276 + 9.31 %
October 1,310,065 447,475 1,757,540 – 4.70 %
November 1,362,611 482,864 1,845,475 + 5.00 %
December 1,364,063 472,613 1,836,676 – 0.48 %


January 1,405,164 498,283 1,903,447 + 3.64 %
February 1,416,727 500,389 1,917,116 + 0.72 %
March 1,423,620 497,178 1,920,798 + 0.19 %
April 1,437,392 507,561 1,944,953 + 1.26 %
May 1,451,674 511,450 1,963,124 + 0.93 %
June 1,441,215 475,211 1,916,426 – 2.38 %
July 1,430,720 449,823 1,880,543 – 1.87 %
August 1,419,678 445,139 1,864,817 – 0.84 %
September 1,509,211 525,895 2,035,106 + 9.13 %
October 1,499,976 524,731 2,024,707 – 0.51 %
November 1,534,376 533,674 2,068,050 + 2.14 %
December 1,530,101 515,138 2,045,239 – 1.10 %


January 1,525,575 491,001 2,016,576 – 1.40 %
February 1,573,690 542,710 2,116,400 + 4.95 %
March 1,597,403 546,698 2,144,101 + 1.31 %
April 1,607,228 548,218 2,155,446 + 0.53 %
May 1,622,065 551,970 2,174,035 + 0.86 %
June 1,621,281 530,464 2,151,745 – 1.03 %
July 1,495,752 424,210 1,919,962 – 10.77 %
August 1,584,535 492,822 2,077,357 + 8.20 %
September 1,634,088 553,238 2,187,326 + 5.29 %
October 1,654,720 561,780 2,216,500 + 1.33 %
November 1,697,727 571,945 2,269,672 + 2.40 %
December 1,686,228 549,203 2,235,431 – 1.51 %


January 1,693,455 531,128 2,224,583 – 0.49 %
February 1,749,602 584,427 2,334,029 + 4.92 %
March 1,764,358 582,374 2,346,732 + 0.54 %
April 1,759,391 583,334 2,342,725 – 0.17 %
May 1,781,882 592,978 2,374,860 + 1.37 %
June 1,777,116 567,441 2,344,557 – 1.28 %
July 1,663,823 456,306 2,120,129 – 9.57 %
August 1,751,277 537,650 2,288,927 + 7.20 %
September 1,766,817 580,452 2,347,269 + 2.55 %
October 1,812,418 600,065 2,412,483 + 2.78 %
November 1,851,382 612,078 2,463,460 + 2.11 %
December 1,833,697 587,358 2,421,055 – 1.72 %


January 1,853,001 570,174 2,423,175 + 0.09 %
February 1,920,107 625,496 2,545,603 + 5.05 %
March 1,917,939 609,055 2,526,994 – 0.73 %
April 1,936,536 622,731 2,559,267 + 1.28 %
May 1,956,424 631,140 2,587,564 + 1.11 %
June 1,899,563 577,550 2,477,113 – 4.27 %
July 1,837,797 488,668 2,326,465 – 6.08 %
August 1,870,641 530,957 2,401,598 + 3.23 %
September 1,930,957 622,436 2,553,393 + 6.32 %
October 1,973,656 637,866 2,611,522 + 2.28 %
November 1,996,612 640,690 2,637,302 + 0.99 %
December 1,974,699 622,754 2,597,453 – 1.51 %

representing the number of persons of all ages and nationalities within the boundaries of the State of Qatar at the end of each respective month. The percentages given are for the change from the previous month. The figures do not include:

  • Qatari nationals who were outside the State boundaries at the end of each month, and
  • non-Qataris with residency permits who were outside the State’s boundaries at the end of each month.

As of September 2015 it appears that the records are no longer being published in their simple form as they were from October 2008. Instead they are covered in a document produced monthly – ‘Qatar Monthly Statistics’ – and which gives details of the population, as well as other statistics, but a month in arrears – but there also appear to be other announcements made.

January maroon font colour denotes the Gregorian months within which Ramadan falls

Note that there is a significant drop in females within the State over the hot, summer months, and a smaller dip at Christmas. It should also be noted that Qataris try to ensure they are in Qatar during the holy month of Ramadan.

By September 2015, the number of females in the total population was just under a quarter – i.e. the male to female proportions are 3 to 1.

Note that, as of July 2016 it appears that the authorities are no longer giving the figures for males and females in the population. No reason has been given for this.

There is one important anomaly to mention, and that is related to the figures given for the 2010 and 2015 Censuses, the latter being referred to as a ‘Mini-Census’.

The figures given for the monthly population statistics for April 2010 are the same as those given for the 2010 Census:

2010 Census and monthly statistics




April 2010 1,270,968 399,421 1,670,389

Yet the figures given for the monthly population statistics for April 2015, and those given for the 2015 Mini-Census, are substantially different:

April 2015 montly statistics




April 2015 1,759,391 583,334 2,342,725

‘Glance from the 2015 Mini-Census’




20th April 2015 1,816,981 587,795 2,404,776

Unfortunately I have not been able to understand how this has come about. Perhaps somebody would let me know…

Male – female population tree for 1989 Male – female population tree for 1999

While the size of the population is of interest, what is perhaps more significant is the way in which the population is distributed by age and gender. These three bell diagrams illustrate the numbers of males and female within the population by age groups.

Regrettably there are no figures published for the numbers of the national population, so it is not possible to see the numbers of expatriates that comprise the labour force – essentially both construction and management. However, the bell diagrams illustrate to some extent the significant profiles of men and women of working age in the population, though it is evident that the male workforce is larger than the female workforce, as you would expect. The exaggerated profile of the population of working age demonstrates the effect of the expatriate work force in Qatar, and illustrates something of the scale of problems in providing for them.

Male – female population tree for 2008

The lowest bell diagram, for 2009, reflects the current surge in construction development in Qatar, though there are other managerial and service personnel also working in the state. You will note how distorted the diagram is within the working age groups, particularly within the younger age groups for both men, though there is a smaller but significant increase in young women. The upper two bell diagrams, for 1989 and 1999 respectively and drawn at the same scale as for 2009, reflect the pace of development ten and twenty years prior to 2009.

There are a small number of statistics relating to those in tertiary education on the page looking at pressures on society.

more to be written…

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Young Qataris shopping

Qataris comprise the minority of the population in their own country and there have been suggested a number of national, strategic and economic reasons for them to increase their numbers. A projection of the 42,000 Qatari population given by the 1970 census at a net increase of 4.4% per annum, which is the figure used by the first planning team, would have given an indigenous population of approximately 99,371 in 1990, though the CSO would not confirm it at the time.

The Census figure for the total population in 2004 given above, 743,000, indicated an increase of over 6%. Bearing in mind that the Qatari increase is likely to be less than 4%, it can be seen that the level of ex-patriate development has been significantly higher than 6%, reflecting the spurt in economic activity in recent years. If this growth has been unplanned for in terms of the infrastructure, there will be significant problems with housing and other provisions to service the increasing ex-patriate community. Although this economic activity benefits nationals, it increases other socio-cultural pressures on them, an issue that will be discussed elsewhere.

The chart that follows examines alternative Qatari populations brought about by different rates of growth which, in the early seventies, seemed a reasonable spread to the consultants brought in to plan the State for the first time. It now appears that the rates of growth – births less deaths – were over-estimated. I have included it for its historical interest and would be interested to have access to the figures which would indicate the correct projections. I have also projected the figures to 2020 in order to bring them up to date.

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Qatari population projections based on the 1970 Census and alternative growth factors

When examined against the growth rates that were determined later, these rates can be seen to have favoured greater expansion. At the time it was thought better to err on greater rather than lesser rates, but even then this chart might usefully have incorporated lesser rates.





















1970 42,000 42,000 42,000 42,000 42,000 42,000 42,000 42,000 42,000
1971 43,638 43,680 43,722 43,764 43,806 43,848 43,890 43,932 43,974
1972 45,340 45,427 45,515 45,602 45,690 45,777 45,865 45,953 46,041
1973 47,108 47,244 47,381 47,517 47,654 47,792 47,929 48,067 48,205
1974 48,945 49,134 49,323 49,513 49,703 49,894 50,086 50,278 50,470
1975 50,854 51,099 51,346 51,593 51,841 52,090 52,340 52,591 52,842
1976 52,838 53,143 53,451 53,760 54,070 54,382 54,695 55,010 55,326
1977 54,898 55,269 55,642 56,017 56,395 56,774 57,156 57,540 57,926
1978 57,039 53,143 57,924 58,370 58,820 59,273 59,728 60,187 60,649
1979 59,264 59,779 60,298 60,822 61,349 61,880 62,416 62,956 63,499
1980 61,575 62,170 62,771 63,376 63,987 64,603 65,225 65,852 66,484
1981 63,976 64,657 65,344 66,038 66,739 67,446 68,160 68,881 69,609
1982 66,472 67,243 68,023 68,812 69,608 70,413 71,227 72,049 72,880
1983 69,064 69,933 70,812 71,702 72,601 73,512 74,432 75,364 76,306
1984 71,757 72,730 73,716 74,713 75,723 76,746 77,782 78,830 79,892
1985 74,566 75,640 76,738 77,851 78,979 80,123 81,282 82,456 83,647
1986 77,464 78,665 79,884 81,121 82,376 83,648 84,940 86,249 87,578
1987 80,485 81,812 83,159 84,528 85,918 87,329 88,762 90,217 91,694
1988 83,624 85,084 86,569 88,078 89,612 91,171 92,756 94,367 96,004
1989 86,885 88,488 90,118 91,777 93,465 95,183 96,930 98,708 100,516
1990 90,273 92,027 93,813 95,632 97,484 99,371 101,292 103,248 105,241
1991 93,794 95,708 97,660 99,649 101,676 103,743 105,850 107,998 110,187
1992 97,452 99,537 101,664 103,834 106,048 108,308 110,613 112,966 115,366
1993 101,253 103,518 105,832 108,195 110,608 113,073 115,591 118,162 120,788
1994 105,202 107,659 110,171 112,739 115,365 118,049 120,793 123,598 126,465
1995 109,304 111,965 114,688 117,474 120,325 123,243 126,228 129,283 132,409
1996 113,567 116,444 119,390 122,408 125,499 128,666 131,909 135,230 138,632
1997 117,996 121,101 124,285 127,549 130,896 134,327 137,844 141,451 145,148
1998 122,598 125,946 129,381 132,906 136,524 140,237 144,047 147,957 151,969
1999 127,380 130,983 134,685 138,488 142,395 146,408 150,530 154,763 159,112
2000 132,347 136,223 140,207 144,305 148,518 152,850 157,303 161,882 166,590
2001 137,509 141,672 145,956 150,366 154,904 159,575 164,382 169,329 174,420
2002 142,872 147,338 151,940 156,681 161,565 166,596 171,779 177,118 182,618
2003 148,444 153,232 158,170 163,262 168,512 173,926 179,509 185,266 191,201
2004 154,233 159,361 164,655 170,119 175,758 181,579 187,587 193,788 200,187
2005 160,248 165,736 171,406 177,264 183,316 189,569 196,029 202,702 209,596
2006 166,498 172,365 178,433 184,709 191,198 197,910 204,850 212,026 219,447
2007 172,991 179,260 185,749 192,466 199,420 206,618 214,068 221,780 229,761
2008 179,738 186,430 193,365 200,550 207,995 215,709 223,701 231,981 240,560
2009 186,748 193,887 201,293 208,973 216,939 225,200 233,768 242,653 251,866
2010 194,031 201,643 209,546 217,750 226,267 235,109 244,288 253,815 263,704
2011 201,598 209,709 218,137 226,896 235,997 245,454 255,280 265,490 276,098
2012 209,461 218,097 227,081 236,426 246,145 256,254 266,768 277,703 289,074
2013 217,630 226,821 236,391 246,356 256,729 267,529 278,773 290,477 302,661
2014 226,117 235,894 246,084 256,702 267,768 279,301 291,318 303,839 316,886
2015 234,936 245,329 256,172 267,483 279,282 291,589 304,426 317,816 331,780
2016 244,098 255,143 266,675 278,718 291,291 304,419 318,126 332,435 347,373
2017 253,618 265,348 277,609 290,424 303,817 317,814 332,441 347,727 363,700
2018 263,509 275,962 288,991 302,622 316,881 331,798 347,401 363,722 380,794
2019 273,786 287,001 300,840 315,332 330,507 346,397 363,034 380,454 398,691
2020 284,464 298,481 313,174 328,576 344,719 361,638 379,371 397,955 417,430

The CSO have, however, stated that they were estimating on the basis of a net increase of Qataris at a rate of 4.1% into the middle nineteen-nineties dropping to 3.9% by the turn of the century – the difficulty being that they would not state the date and figure from which this is projected. However, if it is assumed that the projections are made from 1970 on the basis of the British Government assisted census, and that the rate is reduced from 1993 to 2000 as they suggest, then the Qatari population at the end of the millennium was somewhere in the region of 138,850.

This is, of course, speculation but, if that figure of 138,850 is assumed for the end of the century, and the same rate of increase – 3.9% – also assumed, then there would be, at the end of 2011, 203,500 Qataris in the population of the peninsula. If this figure were to be correct, then the percentage of Qataris in the population would be 11.9%. These figures are much lower than appear to be used elsewhere and should be regarded with caution.

If this exercise is repeated for the end of 2012 it would suggest a national population of 211,500 with a proportion of the overall population reduced to 11.5%.

There is another cross-check which can be made, gives an interesting result, but is inaccurate and should not be taken as definitive. For the year 2010 above, the 4.1% increase computes that there is an increase in Qatari population from 2009 of 209,546 less 201,293, which is 8,253. However, the stated registered births over deaths given by the Statistics Authority is 7,733 less 673, which is 7,060, representing a 3.37% increase, lower than all the theoretical rates for the increase of nationals given.

Having said that, the percentages suggested by the CSO, although high, are in line with published figures for the area which suggested that Saudi Arabia’s and the Gulf States’ indigenous populations are rising at a rate of between three and four per cent per annum. The Royal family – the Al Thani qabila, of whom it is guessed that, in 1990, there would be about five per cent of the Qataris or 4,700 – are thought to have a higher rate of natural increase and above-average sized families, as well as a slight preponderance of females over males; but again there are no published figures to confirm this. I should add here that the American Library of Congress have suggested that the figure might have been 20,000 in the early 1990s, though it seems an unrealistically high figure.

Generally, the figures are disturbing in that they demonstrate rapid expansion as well as lack of consistency. Both conditions are extremely difficult to plan for. If the numbers of Qataris are assumed to be correct at 94,000 in 1990 then they will have been 80,000 at the time of the 1986 census, assuming the lower rate of a 4.1% of increase. If the CSO’s belief – that there was in 1989 a population of well over 400,000 – is correct, then it would not be unrealistic to assume a 1990 total population of at least, say, 406,000 – an increase since the census of 36,000. But 14,000 of this figure would be Qataris, leaving a net increase of at least 22,000 expatriates over the four year period during which there has been a significant downturn in the economic activity of the State. Admittedly the rate of increase of the expatriate population would be much lower than the rate up to 1986, but the fact that it is increasing at all is surprising.

To put the problems associated with population figures in some form of perspective, it is instructive to look at the potential expansion of Iran on the other side of the Gulf. The existing population is approximately 50 million which, if present trends continue, will increase to 140 million in thirty-three years time, the majority of whom will be Iranians. The concern of the Qataris as well as the other Arabs of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia can be readily appreciated.

In 2005 the Planning Council believed that the million mark would be met in 2017. It is always difficult to make an assessment of future trends, the further ahead the more difficult, though the Kuwait-based Global Investment House believed that this figure will be met much earlier, the increase in economic activity in the early years of the twenty-first century being the reason for this. However, 2008 saw a dramatic reversal of economic activity world-wide and this is having its effect felt in the Gulf as elsewhere. One of the most likely consequences will be a reduction in construction activities which will, in turn, be reflected in a smaller expatriate population.

Statistics can be difficult to deal with as they can be made to demonstrate a variety of different trends and results, either accidentally or intentionally. The main issue with projections of the sort being debated relates to the basis for the calculations. Previous calculations were based on ranges of possibilities in order to try to reflect the different socio-economic growth strategies likely to produce change. One of the greatest problems lies with the State’s general ability to exercise control on all the factors governing change. But with the global economic factors now operating, there wil be significant factors outside the State’s control; and these are complicated by the socio-political factors operating in the region, some of which have been noted on other pages of these notes.

Economic activity over the last thirty years has been particularly expansionist in character and, to some extent, has fed on itself, as has very much been the case in Dubai whose construction activities have reflected that State’s perceived need to produce a sound economic basis for continuing development in the light of its small natural reserves compared with its neighbours, particularly Abu Dhabi. The economy is not balanced and there is, as yet, no range of integrated activities other than construction that are sufficient for the country to operate a stable economy. This paper, or note, deals only with population, but it it necessary to look at the wider social factors that will influence the way the economy might be established – if, of course, there ever is to be a stable state. Many authorities believe in there being a continuum of instability, the State continually attempting to achieve an illusory, theoretical balance, though this might be argued for most countries.

Before leaving this review of population statistics, I should add the figures produced for another study, this one carried out by the Shankland Cox Partnership, working for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and produced for the 1981 William L. Pereira Associates Structure Plan.

These figures are likely to have been based on the 1970 Census together with the previous work of Llewelyn-Davies who developed their projections in the early 1970s. They also rely on previous work by WLPA and, for the purpose of this note, it is important to understand that the figures are based on a medium growth rate – but also that population growth figures are going to be more accurate for the national population than for the expatriate population as that figure will be dependent upon oil and gas production together with industrial and construction industries and allied development.

In accordance with the medium growth forecast, you will see that the figures given for Qatari nationals in 1980, 1990 and 2000 are less than those given above and based on 4.1% increase. In round figures respectively – 56,000, 84,000 and 125,000 instead of 83,000, 94,000 and 140,000 – a considerable difference. Notice too, that these figures are suggested for the Doha area, and not the whole of the country.

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Qatari population projections suggested by two planning consultancies

Doha area population by nationality – 1980



Qatari nationals 56,000 30%
Non-Qatari families 87,000 46%
Non-Qatari bachelors 47,000 24%

Doha area population by nationality – 1990



Qatari nationals 84,000 30%
Non-Qatari families 152,000 54%
Non-Qatari bachelors 46,200 16%

Doha area population by nationality – 2000



Qatari nationals 125,000 33%
Non-Qatari families 205,000 55%
Non-Qatari bachelors 45,000 12%

The 1980 figure showing a population of 190,000 for the Doha area was considered by the consultants to represent around 85% of the total population of the peninsula of 220,000 at that time. If, as was suggested by the consultants, 125,000 Qatari nationals are taken to represent 85% of the total Qatari population, then their total population would have been 147,000 in the year 2000.

Projecting the figure of 147,000 at a rate of births over deaths of 4.1% – a rate which is, perhaps, over-generous – then the Qatar national population in 2010 would have been 220,000 and, in 2012, 238,000. At the lower rate of growth of 3.5%, the totals in 2010 and 2012 would have been 207,000 and 222,000 respectively. The total population for the end of 2012 was given by the Qatar Statistics Authority as 1,845,000 which suggests that, based on the 1980 estimates and a 4.1% growth rate, at most Qatari nationals represent around 12.9% of the total population. If the Qatari growth rate is only 3.5%, then their percentage of the total population would be 11.9%.

The figures for the Qatari national population are not published in their entirety. However, as a very rough cross-check, the figures published for Qataris over the age of ten have been published for April 2010 in the ‘Census for Population and Housing and Establishments 2010’:

Qatari population 10 years of age and over




Qatari nationals 85,819 88,460 174,279

The official figures for the total population for the month of April 2010 are:

Total population




Qataris and non-Qataris 1,270,968 399,421 1,670,389

The population figures for the 0 to 9 year olds for 2010 are not available, but those for 2009 are given in one of the bell diagrams above giving total population figures for the 0 to 9 year olds as:

Children in the age group 0 to 9 incl. – 2009




Total 0 to 4 39,053 36,489 75,542
Total 5 to 9 43,541 41,069 84,610
Total Qataris and non-Qataris 82,594 77,558 160,152

Other statistics suggest that births are in the ratio of 2:3, Qataris to non-Qataris. While this does not necessarily hold true for the whole of the 0 to 10 age group, it might be used for this exercise. So, 40% of, say 160,000 would suggest 64,000 Qatari children of ages between 0 and 9.

Total Qatari population estimate for 2010

0 to 9

10 and over


Total male and female Qataris 64,000 174,000 238,000

While this methodology is obviously contentious, it does suggest that the national population figures reached by looking at the statistics in different ways, and with not having access to the relevant data, might safely be considered to be in the region of 238,000, or 13% of the total population, at the end of 2010.

However, an article published in the Spring of 2015 looked at the national population from a more academic basis than was developed on this page, and suggested there would have been a Qatari population of around 290,000 in early 2015. If my suggestion of a natural increase, made below, of 3.7% is used on the estimate of a 238,000 national population in 2010, then it might be anticipated that there will be a Qatari population of 296,000 at the end of 2016.

One final note of warning relating to problems created by selective guesswork is that the figure might be considerably lower. Crudely, if the number of Qataris living in Doha in 1980 was 55,000, as suggested above is correct, and if that figure represented 85% of their total population, then there would have been 66,000 Qataris in 1980. If the Qatari population growth rate given by the Qatar government’s Qatar Information Exchange for the years 1985 to 2009 is taken and averaged, it suggests that Qatari population growth is around 3.7% per annum. If this is applied to the 66,000 estimate for 1980, then there would have been a Qatari population of around 196,000 in 2010 and 244,000 in 2016. It can be seen that these crude estimates are considerably lower than the above-mentioned article suggests.

This warning may be supported by a comment in a 2012 report of the Permanent Population Committee noting that the total fertility rate in Qatari women has declined in recent times from 4.6% in 2004 to 3.6% in 2010 due to the rise in women’s enrolment rates in higher education and their increasing contribution to economic activity within the State, issues that are looked at on another page.

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The al-Thani family

Over the years there has been considerable interest in learning the numbers there are of the al-Thani family and their percentage of the national population. While the Qatar Statistics Authority is likely to have an accurate understanding of its natural rate of increase and total numbers, these are not available for a number of reasons.

Further up the page I have made a note suggesting that there might have been 4,700 members of the al-Thani family in 1990, representing 5.0% of the national population, but there are other estimates.

The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, as part of the Country Studies/Area Handbook Series sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army between 1986 and 1998, publishes information on much of the world and has a short note including some information relating to the al-Thani family. Their estimate quotes no sources but suggests that, in 1990, there were around 20,000 members of the family. I have suggested above that estimates of the national population in 1990 gave it as 99,371, this being based on a births over deaths increase of 4.4%, but suggested that this might have been an over-estimation of the rate of natural increase. The probability that the rate would have been less than 4.0% would have produced a national population of no more than 92,000 in 1990.

For a number of reasons it is entirely probable that the natural rate of increase of the al-Thani family would have been greater than that of the general national population, though it is impossible to guess what a sensible rate might be. If there were, as the note suggests, 20,000 al-Thani in 1990, they would have represented at least 21.74% of the national population at that date. If this figure was to be taken and a rate of natural increase taken of 4.0%, then there would have been, in 2012, 47,398 members of the family. If the rate were to be assumed to be higher than the general rate for Qataris, say, 4.5% then, in 2012, there would have been 52,673 members of the family. And, if this is so, then the al-Thani family would have represented, in 2012, 23.73% – almost a quarter – of the total national population estimated at 222,000. This coincides roughly with estimates seen elsewhere, that the al-Thani family represent a fifth of the national population.

If, on the other hand, the al-Thani population was 4,700 in 1990, it would have become 11,140 at a natural increase of 4.0%, or 12,378 at a natural increase of 4.5% – both at 2012 – this representing 5.0% and 5.6% of the national population respectively at that date.

While there is no official estimate of the numbers of al-Thani in the national population, it is also true that there is no breakdown of males and females in their population. However, it would seem there may be a slight preponderance of males to females if the national trend for Qataris is followed. According to the statistics there were around 4% more live births for males than females in the 2000-2009 period – though, as noted above, there were 3.2% more Qatari females than males aged from ten upwards in the national population.

It must be borne in mind that the above figures are all estimates in the absence of official published figures.

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Foreigners form much of the workforce within the country and this is likely to be so for the foreseeable future. At its simplest, labour is brought in from a number of countries such as the Indian sub-continent, the Far East, Egypt and some Arab countries for short term contracts, middle management from the Indian sub-continent, Jordan, Egypt and Europe, and top management from a variety of Arabic countries and Europe and the United States.

If, as stated above, the numbers of expatriates are increasing, then it is likely to mean that it is expatriates fulfilling the roles generally of servants and maids, obtaining salaries in the region of Qrs.400 or $110 per month, who are coming into the country to service the domestic requirements of the indigenous and, to a minor extent, the expatriate populations. Incidentally, it is surprising how many expatriates suddenly find themselves financially able to hire expatriate servants – but I shall write about this on the socio-cultural page.

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View of future balance

The lack of a political balance within the Middle East generally, and the Gulf in particular, makes it difficult to foretell future populations within Qatar. The problems associated with the dramatic rise and fall of oil prices caused a great number of difficulties for the Gulf States in organising their economies to continue to perform as their early promise had suggested. The more serious ramifications of the West’s perceived interference in Arabic affairs has created instability that will take years to resolve if, in fact, it is possible to resolve it to the benefit of the majority of the inhabitants at all.

Events at the north of the Gulf have suggested that Kuwait will attempt to redevelop itself with a population of half that which it had prior to its invasion by Iraq. This reduction in population is likely to be at the expense of the Palestinians – both those who were born there and those who came later – as well as other Arab nationals who have made a home there. In addition it is believed that large numbers of the service population from other countries – particularly from the Indian sub-continent and the Far East – may be encouraged to leave throwing more of the burden of the work on the indigenous Kuwaiti population. It is anticipated that this will be resisted by those countries affected as there is a real need to receive the monies remitted by their nationals to support the national economies.

The issues relating to population groupings are many, revolving around social, religious, ethical, political and other areas of debate and decision. If Kuwait is to attempt to change itself radically then it is probable that the opportunity might be taken in other Gulf States, including Qatar, to take similar steps which will affect the size of its population.

Militating against this it is argued that there will be many factors, particularly those which will emanate from the national population who will wish to see their accommodation rented, their imports purchased, and a variety of services provided for them as well as the influence of the American base now established on Qatar.

There are two basic factors that require ex-patriates within the Gulf States: firstly, there is the need to obtain personnel with the skills that do not, at present, exist within the State and, secondly, there is the need to introduce personnel who will execute those tasks that the nationals are unwilling to carry out themselves. In this there is little difference between Qatar and many other States in the world. There is no ability for expatriates to settle in Qatar as this is actively discouraged. There are those who live in Qatar to carry out the work for which they are contracted; some are permitted to enter the country to visit their relations; there is a very small amount of tourism, and the only other visitors are those making ad hoc visits in connection with business.

Although it seems now to be changing, there has been an active policy to restrict long term residency of expatriates in Qatar, as in the other Gulf States, for some time as it is seen that ex-patriates are a drain on limited resources – resources that should be utilised for the benefit of the nationals. There is also a general political commitment to assist poor Islamic and other countries as well as provide a refuge for stateless persons. This has resulted in a series of policies to provide labour that varies from time to time in response to agreements made between Governments and attitudes within Qatar. Palestinians, for instance, comprise a resource of individuals whom it is not possible to repatriate and they form a long term core of educated personnel who require jobs in Qatar. As Qataris are generally being educated to middle management, professional levels and above, it is likely that the trend for services to be provided by foreigners will continue for decades, and that there will continue to be increasing conflicts between the indigenous and expatriate populations for the limited number of jobs available. This problem has been recognised in other Gulf States for some time and has led to a series of policies which will benefit the indigenous populations, or which will even disbenefit the expatriate populations in the region.

It is difficult to know what will happen in the future. The present Government has expanded the country dramatically and there is significant development taking place. Dubai, which does not have the oil and gas that Qatar has, is developing its tourist, sports and second homes industries with Qatar following suit, albeit on a more modest scale perhaps, in Qatar’s case, in an effort to spread the base on which income is derived as well as to create a different cross section of its society.

Pearl – September 2004 Pearl – November 2005

Development is proceeding rapidly. The United Development Company began the Pearl-Qatar project in 2004 and intends to complete it by 2009, the first phase being ready for occupancy in 2006. Covering 400 hectares of reclaimed land it is the largest existing international real estate venture and intends to offer investors freehold. The development comprises a variety of residential types, a total of eight hundred beds in a number of five-star hotels, marinas, schools and retail facilities. These two satellite photographs were taken of it in September 2004 and November 2005 respectively.

In December 2005, Qatari state company, Qatari Diar, announced a five billion Dollar housing project that will be the largest in Qatar. Lusail will cover 3,500 hectares, house around 200,000 people, and is scheduled for completion by 2010. It is planned to have two residential zones, commercial and leisure centres, two golf courses, hotels, hospitals and two ports, as well as an artificial lake. It is similar to the existing Pearl development in that it is aimed at foreign investors who would be allowed to lease property for a period of ninety-nine years, with an option to renew.

Qatar Diar and Pearl-Qatar both state that one of their aims is to produce a balanced community in their developments, albeit an up-market community. But there is always a problem with this type of determinism. There are two basic difficulties:

  • that of producing an integrated community from scratch, and the
  • character of the community planned.

It is widely recognised that communities work best when established over a long period of time and contain all those elements necessary for their effective socio-economic operation. Up-market developments of the type planned don’t naturally contain these elements, particularly with the heavy servicing required. Communities are generally accepted as being societies that have a considerable amount of internal communication. You would not anticipate this in a community established rapidly and whose make-up is governed by the ability to afford the residential units on offer and with the owners coming from many different countries.

It is also probable that the housing is likely to appeal to people who would not make permanent homes there, if this follows the experience of countries such as Dubai and Malta that have produced similar developments, and where the housing is considered to be an investment first, and a home second. Even when the housing is leased to enable owners to obtain a return on their investment, this produces communities that are never fully occupied. This reflects both on the character of the estates in terms of visible activity, as well as on their ability to survive economically as self-contained operations.

The character of the State is developing and changing, the policies it designs enabling this progress. But there is a feeling in the Gulf that there has to be a wider understanding of the problems created by the character of the disbalanced population as well as by the future socio-cultural aspirations and characteristics of the national population. You have to bear in mind that, generally, Qataris have significant disposable incomes nowadays and there is an increasingly aggressive advertising operation – both overt and covert – focussed on them. As an outsider it seems impossible to understand how these will develop bearing in mind the range of pressures brought about by the crudely defined extremes of fundamentalism on the one hand and the West’s influence on the other.

It must be assumed that the ad hoc policies which determine the numbers of ex-patriates within the country will continue to vary depending upon relatively short term circumstance. From the State’s point of view there is much to commend such a policy but, from the long term point of view – one that will establish the overall character of the State – there are additional problems related to the need to plan for the future within the constraints of the religio-political situation of the Arabian peninsula.

More to be written…

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