Qatar mulls permanent residency for expats

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Qatar mulls permanent residency for expats

Qatar would consider granting permanent residency to expatriates as part of its strategy to attract and retain a highly skilled labour force, according to a report.

By Suresh Pattali

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Published: Wed 30 Mar 2011, 12:42 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:25 AM

The Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016, which was unveiled on Monday, said the country, which holds the third-largest reserves of natural gas in the world, plans to set in place “predetermined criteria” for issuing permanent residency, according to a report in The Peninsula.

The report did not mention a time frame to implement the strategy, but analysts said it is part of the Gulf state’s wider development blueprint.

The report said Qatar will implement a recruitment and retention programme that will include a review and revision of the country’s sponsorship system which, the government thinks, is affecting the labour market.

Two expatriates were recently issued residence permits for the first time in Qatar, under the sponsorship of real estate properties owned by them.

An Egyptian and a Pakistani became the first two foreigners to obtain residence permits under the new rule, with their real estate properties acting as their sponsor.

According to analysts, the predetermined criteria for granting permanent residency, which have not been disclosed yet, could be stringent, but the issuance of residence permits for property owners is indeed a positive sign.

The government report also said the present sponsorship programme constrains the mobility of expatriates and thus their ability to respond to labour market signals. “A rigid labour market hampers the development of a workforce commensurate with aspirations for a knowledge economy,” said the document.

While skilled labour force participation by Qataris is essential, so is establishing the regulatory and legal frameworks needed to attract and retain a skilled expatriate workforce to support the nation’s development vision, The Peninsula quoted the strategy report as saying.

The Qatar National Vision 2030 acknowledges the importance of expatriate workers. “For the foreseeable future, Qatar will not have a sufficient number of citizens to manage the complex systems, infrastructure and other requirements of a rapidly growing, diversifying and technologically sophisticated economy,” the report said.

“The transition to a more diversified economy requires more high-skilled labour. Due to the size of Qatar’s economy relative to its population, a significant share of high-skilled workers will have to be expatriates.”

Analysts said the planned labour strategy resembles that of Singapore which has successfully implemented a permanent residency system that has attracted a large number of professionals, thus giving the republic an edge in research and other strategically important fields.

The report identified two broad options for the economy, each with consequences for labour force competition. It said if the economy continues to rely heavily on hydrocarbons to fuel mega-development projects, with productivity levels unchanged, some 1.6 million workers will be needed by 2016. If reliance on hydrocarbons decreases, Qatar will need just 1.2 million workers in 2016 — much the same as in 2009.

The Peninsula report said Qatar is seeking a development path compatible with a targeted size and quality of expatriate labour.

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