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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Qatar Jobs: Qatarisation

Qatarisation (or Qatarization if you are American) is Qatar's attempt to increase the proportion of Qataris employed in a country where most work is still done by expatriates. Obviously, in a country where Qataris themselves number around 25% of the population, this can only go so far.

What's more, the population is increasing at an incredible rate - when I arrived here three years ago the population was estimated at less than 800,000. Today it is thought to number nearly twice that. With targets for Qatarisation formed in terms of percentage, that makes achieving the target even more difficult.

Nevertheless, the targets are ambitious - according to the Financial Times Qatar is aiming for a total of 50% Qatarisation in non-specialised government posts and 20% in private sector posts. Qatar has been trying to accelerate the process of Qatarization by assigning quotas of Qatari employees to private companies and to ministries.

While private companies often find themselves struggling to fill their quotas of Qataris - Qataris themselves often prefer to work in government posts - the government have been more successful with government posts. Government ministries have recently been pushed to replace non-specialised workers with Qatari job seekers, with the ministries being warned about reclassifying favourite workers as specialised workers.

The desire to encourage Qataris to take a greater role in government and the economy, and to reduce dependence on foreign workers for work that can be done by Qataris, is understandable. The government also appears keen to avoid a dependency culture where nationals rely on handouts an oil and gas rich state. Nevertheless, Qatarisation can be devastating for some foreign workers.

Some of the people doing non-specialized work may have been in the country for years - often their children will know no other home - and come from countries where job prospects and salaries are poor. As those replaced are often those doing work without specialized skills, they are likely to find it particularly hard to find replacement jobs. It also makes a lot of people nervous!

Normally, if you have specialised qualifications in Qatar you should not be too worried about your job. In any case, your position should be safe until your contract has finished - which may not be much of a consolation if it is up next week!

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