Qatar Population

Persian Gulf States Table of Contents

The population of Qatar before independence must be estimated because, until oil revenues created a reason to stay on the peninsula, individuals and whole tribes migrated when the economic or security situation became intolerable. Some sought work elsewhere; others joined neighboring branches of their tribe. In 1908 a British observer estimated there were 27,000 inhabitants; 6,000 were described as foreign slaves and 425 as Iranian boatbuilders. (By 1930 the number of Iranians had increased to 5,000, or almost 20 percent of the population.) The population probably remained fairly stable until the 1930s and 1940s, when economic hardship and regional insecurity caused people to migrate to other areas, leaving Qatar with a population of only 16,000 in 1949, according to one estimate.

After oil exports increased in the 1950s, employment opportunities attracted Arabs from other Persian Gulf countries and foreign workers (mostly Indians, at first) to Qatar. In 1970 the Qatari government, assisted by British experts, carried out a census that reported a population of 111,113, of whom 45,039, or more than 40 percent, were identified as Qataris. With the oil boom of the 1970s and the resultant influx of foreign workers came the largest population growth, so that by 1977 it was estimated that 200,000 people lived in the country, about 65 percent of whom were non-Qataris. During the 1960-75 period, the population grew at an average annual rate of 8.9 percent; in the 1970-75 period it grew at 12.7 percent.

The census of March 16, 1986, counted a population of 369,079, and an estimate for 1990 brought the total to 371,863, including up to 70,000 Qataris. The July 1992 estimate was 484,387, with a 1992 growth rate of 3.2 percent. The 1989 birth rate was 31.8 per 1,000 population and the death rate 2.5 per 1,000, for a natural increase per 1,000 of 29.3, a high rate for a developing country. The 1986 census showed that 84 percent of the population was concentrated in Doha and in the neighboring town of Ar Rayyan. Other towns included Al Wakrah (population 13,259) and Umm Said (population 6,094). In total, 88 percent of the population was urban. Reflecting the high number of migrant workers, about 67 percent of the population was male. The age breakdown was as follows: under fifteen, 27.8 percent; fifteen to twenty-nine, 29.3 percent; thirty to forty-four, 32.3 percent; forty-five to fifty-nine, 8.6 percent; and sixty and over, 2.0 percent.

South Asians (mainly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Filipinos) made up about 35 percent of the population; Qataris, 20 percent; Arabs, 25 percent; Iranians, 16 percent; and others, 4 percent. Roughly 90 percent of the population was Muslim (mostly Sunni), and the remainder were Christian, Hindu, Bahai, and other.

For more recent population estimates, see Facts about Qatar.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress