In recent years the total GCC population has experienced rapid growth due to greater demand for expatriate workers.
According to the latest regional study the population of Gulf oil producers is projected to rise to 49.8 million in 2013. The population peaked at 46.8 million at the end of 2011, up from 33.2 million in 2004.
During 2009-2013, the compounded average growth rate in GCC population is estimated to have slowed down to 3.2 per cent because of slacking expatriate influx after the end of the boom, compared with 5.9 per cent in 2004-2008, said QNB Capital, an affiliate of the Qatar National Bank, in their report.
“The GCC’s booming economy in recent years has created substantial demand for expatriate workers. As a result, the region has experienced a rapid growth in population,” the report said.
However the new study shows that the population growth rates are now moderating.
The growth of GCC nationals is forecast at 2.4 per cent between 2009 and 2013, down only from 2.5 per cent in the previous five years. This is double the global average, owing to a youthful population, high birth rates and improving life spans due to investment in healthcare.
Most expatriates in the region work on a short to medium-term basis. Although their total is growing, the particular individuals rotate over time according to the skills required .
The surge in expatriate numbers in 2004-2008, when they grew at a rate of 10.8 per cent, was linked to the boom in oil prices, the report said.
“This stimulated a period of rapid development in the non-oil sector which required large numbers of construction workers,” it added.
Following the brief crash in oil prices in 2009 and weaknesses in the real estate sector, some analysts expected trends to reverse and expatriate numbers to fall. Because of the GCC economies which remained buoyant this did not happen. Although population growth did slow sharply in some places.
The GCC-based expatriate population is projected to grow continuously at a steadier rate of about 4.0 per cent during 2009-2013.
As a result of the slowdown in expatriate immigration, the expatriate share of the GCC population is only forecast to rise marginally, to 48.4 per cent in 2013, up from 47.8 per cent in 2011, compared to 37.8 per cent in 2004.
Growth has not been even across the GCC.
The UAE population is expected to expand from 11.3 per cent of the total in 2004 to 18.2 per cent in 2013 and Qatar’s share will increase by over a half, from 2.4 per cent in 2004 to 3.7 per cent in 2013.
While Saudi Arabia still represents the majority of the region’s population, the Kingdom’s share is expected to decline from 68 per cent to 61 per cent, owing to the Kingdom’s high proportion of local citizens.
Population growth has been driven by expatriate immigration and it is natural that this has been highest in the countries that have relatively small nationals populations relative to their oil wealth, while countries like Saudi Arabia and Oman have seen more moderate levels of expatriate growth.