Firms contracted to build some of Qatar’s biggest projects, including its new airport, are struggling to convince highly-qualified professionals to move to Qatar, Arabian Business reports.

Many expatriate professionals are reluctant to move to either Qatar or neighboring Saudi Arabia, particularly if they already live in Dubai, which is viewed as more attractive. Construction company Arabtec‘s chief operating officer Nabil Al Kindi said:

“Everyone I ask ‘can we move you to Saudi Arabia or Qatar’ [they reply], ‘no I want to be here in Dubai, if that’s not an option there are other companies I can work with’. So I think that’s a challenge.

Arabtec is currently building Qatar’s World Trade Centre.

Al Kindi added that Dubai is favored because Qatar is viewed as being more expensive and offers less entertainment.

Other factors putting people off are the standard of schools here and a perception of a low-quality of family life, according to Simon Crispe, Commercial Director of Atkins, a UK-based company that has brought almost 500 employees into Qatar in the past 18 months. He said:

“An awful lot of people that we target are people with families and you can’t expect people to turn up to work without their family around them.”

Arabian Business mentions two further issues causing difficulties for construction firms in Qatar and KSA:

  • Increased staff costs and difficulty recruiting due to nationalization schemes; and
  • Restrictions on imports caused by Qatar’s relatively small port, leading to an increased cost of materials, and difficult planning and time-scheduling. This problem is being addressed, with a 26km2 new port currently under construction, scheduled for completion in early 2016.

High expat to national ratio

Although these employers believe Qatar is an unattractive choice for professionals, new figures released by Kuwait’s Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies and reported by Emirates 24/7 show that Qatar actually has the highest percentage of expats relative to its population size in the region – 87 percent.

The UAE is second at 84 percent, followed by Kuwait with 68 percent, Bahrain with 51 percent and Oman with 39 percent.

Saudi Arabia is last with a 32 percent ratio, but it actually has the largest expat population, estimated at almost eight million.