The UAE and Qatar have the highest percentage of expatriates relative to their population in the oil-rich Gulf although Saudi Arabia has the largest number of foreigners, according to a regional study.
At the start of 2011, expatriates accounted for as high as 87 per cent of the total population in Qatar and nearly 84 per cent in the UAE, showed the study by the Kuwaiti-based Diplomatic Centre, a private think-tank.
Foreigners in Kuwait were estimated at 68 per cent while they stood at around 51 per cent in Bahrain and 39 per cent in Oman.
Saudi Arabia, the largest member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), had the lowest ratio of expatriates of around 32 per cent, but it had the highest number of foreigners, estimated at nearly eight million.
The report showed expatriates, mostly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, were estimated at nearly 48 per cent of the GCC’s total population of 43 million at the start of 2011. At the end of the year, the total population of the Gulf economic, political and defence alliance stood at around 46.9 million.
“Expatriates are a majority in some GCC members and could become a majority in other countries if no measures are taken by regional governments to cut reliance on foreigners.
This is because the expatriate population is growing by 6-8 per cent while the local population is growing by 2-3 per cent,” the report said.
It showed the population in the GCC, which controls 40 per cent of the world’s recoverable oil deposits, has recorded the highest growth rate over the past decades.
It said the GCC’s total population has surged by more than 10 times since 1950, when it was estimated at around 3.9 million.
A breakdown showed Saudi Arabia controlled more than half the GCC’s population, with around 28.5 million at the start of 2012.
The population was put at 8.5 million in the UAE, 3.7 million in Kuwait, 3.1 million in Oman, 1.8 million in Qatar and 1.3 million in Bahrain.
In a previous report, the Riyadh-based GCC Secretariat said the population density in the group varies considerably, with Oman having the lowest density, just about 10 people per one square km.
Saudi Arabia is only slightly higher because it has a similar distribution of habitable regions and cities surrounded by vast desert areas.
The other countries have far higher densities because they have relatively small areas relative to their hydrocarbon resources, which fuel large-scale water desalination facilities and finance food imports needed to support dense populations.
Bahrain has the highest density, with 1,678 people per square km, because it is the smallest GCC member and most of the island is urbanised.