Qatar: Country's woes not expat labor's fault

Doha residents are expressing outrage about a recently released government study that blames Qatar's falling productivity rate on its unskilled expat labor force.

According to the study's findings, which were reported by local newspaper Gulf Times, average productivity per hour in the country declined from 4.8 per cent between 1990 and 2000 to 1.8pc between 2000 and 2007.

“This is very low compared to what has been achieved by China (10.1pc), Bahrain (5.13pc), India (4.1pc) and Oman (4.18pc) in 2007,” the study stated, citing a recent report from the Conference Board, an independent international business and research organization.

According to the story published in the Gulf Times, the study “held the large numbers of the low-skilled expatriate workforce responsible for the low output per hour experienced by the country.”

The study reports:

What is alarming is that over half of the expatriate workforce (55.9pc) are either uneducated or below secondary education level.

Low participation by nationals in the private sector “means 99.40pc of the private sector jobs are manned by expatriate workforce.”

One can hardly find another country in the world where foreigners fully control the private sector as is the case in Qatar. This situation should be seriously considered when it comes to developing the labour market policy.

The report prompted a torrent of scornful comments on Twitter and the forum Qatar Living, where the general sentiment seemed to be that companies here get what the pay for.

On Twitter, @adnandawood said:

This is so ridiculous its hillarious

On Qatar Living, commentator Don Robert said:

Human trafficking and expat exploitation is the reason for the slowing down of progress here in Qatar.

MagicDragon noted:

You are not the owner of the company. You have no rights. Why should you be more productive? Pay me 3 times my salary and I'll be 3 times more productive. That's the equation.

And Bthomas said:

I know a lot of people who are getting paid peanuts considering their education & work experience. Qatar needs to stop gambling with employees about their salaries and need to set a standard across various industry sectors. Without any motivation or comfort, employees will not remain loyal to their organization or their work.

In response to the study's recommendation to “decrease the reliance on the expatriate workforce especially those who are unskilled,”

@VEE6 asked,

There's an alternative?

On Qatar Living, commentator Alumnar added:

It would be nice to see how Qatar would do with local people only doing all the jobs for a year. Can a country go bankrupt? If not the case, it can sure be CHAOS!

He suggested instead:

Review everything – Pay skilled workforce decent salaries. Invest in training programs. Don't overwork and underpay them. Use incentives and show them appreciation. Give them proper accommodation and allowances so they can eat enough to be able to work properly…

The conversation regarding workers’ rights in the Gulf was continued yesterday in a Huffington Post piece by architect Cameron Sinclair, who calls laborers “boom and bust refugees.”

In Dying To Work: Human Trafficking and the Construction Industry, Sinclair writes:

It is easy to point the finger at local officials and higher authorities, but let us not forget that it is the private sector that is equally, if not more, accountable…

Forget our environmental footprint, what is our ethical footprint? What good is building a zero energy, carbon neutral complex if unethical labor practices are jeopardizing the lives of those who build this architectural wonder?

CosmicChaos comments:

The point is that all laborers no matter their origins or where they are working deserve fair wages, safe housing, and a safe work place. Anything less is criminal.

I find it horrible that I have no clue if the people I hire to do a construction job are fairly paying their workers and making sure that they have the proper equipment to prevent injuries. I doubt any of them have health coverage if they are injured.

Somehow we need workers around the world to be able to say, “Enough!” However, this is difficult to impossible when you and your family is starving.

To see more comments on Huffington Post, click here.

For more on the discussion at Qatar Living, click here.

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