Qatari workforce: What it means for the private sector

by  — 14 February 2016

With the continued volatility in energy prices and mixed sentiments about the economy, 2016 is projected as a year of ‘cautious optimism’ across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and organisational and HR leaders are scrambling to review their budgets and optimise costs. The mantra is simply to do more with less, write Radhika Punshi and David Jones.

Radhika Punshi is managing director and David Jones is the CEO at The Talent Enterprise.

Business leaders have often expressed concerns about how human resource (HR) professionals need to get more strategically aligned to the business and rely less on using HR jargon and buzzwords that make little sense to anyone outside the HR team.

How does the current economic climate impact the investment and progress (or lack of) that employers are making with Qatarisation? Needless to say, the nationalisation of the workforce continues to be the single biggest business and HR concern for employers and though spending on Qatarisation priorities may be slightly curtailed, we expect the opposite trend. Spending on Qatarisation will continue to increase as a proportion of HR budgets, and we will possibly see bigger cuts in recruitment budgets as well as the engagement and development of expatriates.

However, the fact remains that Qatar continues to be one of the most, if not the most, competitive labour markets for local talent globally. Consider these facts. According to figures released by the Qatar Statistics Authority (Labour Force Statistics Bulletin 2012) and research by our team at The Talent Enterprise:

  • Out of a total labour force of 1.34 million, only 88,600 or so are Qataris.
  • 99.2 percent of private-sector jobs are held by expatriates.
  • The total number of Qatari students in public and private universities is about 10,115.
  • The total number of graduates that Qatar had in 2013-2014 was around 1970 and this number went up to around 2165 Qatari graduates for the subsequent year.
  • Finally, when you filter the list of viable graduates (by their degree/ qualification), this number drops to nearly 550 to 650 potential candidates for employers to hire. This is of course assuming that all of these students would be keen to work. Our recommendations on the top five future Qatarisation priorities for 2016 and beyond are:


  1. Retain, upskill and reskill existing Qatari employees for the future: If HR teams had to prioritise one thing for 2016, we would recommend refocusing your attention on the retention of your current workforce, and investing in their skill development to take on roles in the future, both technical roles and as future leaders.


  1. Focus on performance and productivity:  There is still much to be desired in the way business and HR leaders set up and manage the performance of their employees.


  1. Focus on quality and not quantity of new hires: We would recommend developing a stronger employer brand which sets clear expectations on who would and who would not fit within the company, as well as using a more rigourous process for selection incorporating aspects such as assessment centres and psychometrics, which reduces the subjectivity of the process.


  1. Engage with education early on to build employability skills: The message here is self-explanatory. Employers need to engage with policy makers and educational providers early on to design curriculums, work-study programmes, etcetera, to ensure that students display essential work readiness and key life skills such as grit, resilience, positive mindset, confidence and realistic expectations from the world of work.


  1. Develop a sustainable expatriation strategy: It may be counter-intuitive to include this point as one of the key priorities, however, successful nationalisation can only be achieved side-by-side with successful and inclusive expatriation. This is not a zero-sum game and to sustain Qatar’s growth ambitions, relying on the skills, experience and contribution of foreign workers will continue to be a key part of the national agenda.   


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