Qatar’s population usually dips during the summer and this year was no exception as around 10 percent of the country left during July, driving down the number of residents within the state’s borders to an 11-month low of just 2.12 million people, according to official figures.
If you’ve just come back, you might have spotted a few changes around town – the weather’s hotter than normal, security across Doha is tighter and companies are preparing for new rules around salary payments.
Here is our recap of what you might have missed over the last two months:
Nov. 3 will be the deadline for employers to start depositing their workers’ wages directly into their bank accounts, officials from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Molsa) confirmed in a press conference today.
The Wage Protection System, an amendment to Article 66 of Qatar’s Labor Law (No. 14 of 2004), has been in the works for years and was approved by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Feb. 18.
Since then, officials granted employers a grace period to ensure they comply, but they only have two months left before the new rules become mandatory.
Translation: Press conference to launch the WPS.
The new system aims to address problems surrounding non- and late payment of wages, particularly for blue-collar workers, by requiring all firms to register their employees’ details with Qatar Central Bank and to pay them at least monthly, or for some category of workers, every two weeks.
Law no. 1 of 2015 orders that payment must be paid in Qatari riyals directly into a bank account within seven days of its due date. Otherwise, the employer could incur penalties of up to one month in prison and a maximum QR6,000 fine.
Employers who don’t comply also face being blacklisted by the ministry from receiving work permits, MOLSA said in a statement.
Sanctions can only be lifted with the approval of the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs or anyone he delegates after the violator proves his payment of the workers’ salaries.
Malls, hotels and the religious complex in Mesaimeer have all employed stricter security measures over the past six weeks, some of which are still in place.
Ahead of Eid al-Fitr, church-goers were told that due to “ongoing security concerns”, several new rules would be in place, including closing the gated parking area inside the complex, introducing metal detectors and upping the number of security personnel.
The the Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church first introduced the measures at the end of June, while congregants at the Epiphany Church and Anglican Center were informed of the changes in mid-July, following a directive issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Malls and stores such as Landmark, Hyatt Plaza, Gulf Mull and Dar Al Salaam also increased their security arrangements after receiving a government directive before the holiday.
They began employing more personnel and introducing checks with mirrors on the underside of cars entering the basement parking lots as well as looking in the trunks of vehicles.
Meanwhile, hotels also stepped up their security arrangements, with some installing metal security arches in their lobbies and service entrances and paying extra attention to cars on the premises.
While this was supposed to be for the duration of the Eid holiday in mid-July, some establishments have continued using the measures.
Stores closed – and opened
A popular Doha store on Salwa Road has been closed since the weekend when an interior ceiling at the rear of the shop collapsed, injuring some shoppers.
Officials have not confirmed what caused the incident, but the store was busy with customers at the time and it’s usually a popular haunt with parents stocking up with school supplies ahead of the start of the new term.
Meanwhile, in Lagoona Mall, Qatar’s first branch of Build-a-Bear has opened its doors, ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday later this month.
And residents impatient for American-style breakfasts at IHOP in Gulf Mall will have to wait a little longer. While the interior of the store has seemed to be finished for months, company officials have yet to reveal the official opening date.
Passengers on Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777 aircraft could soon be feeling the pinch, as the airline confirmed last month that it would be fitting in an extra seat to each row.
Most of the national flag carrier’s 777 fleet are set to be installed with 10 seats per row in the economy cabin, instead of the current nine, reducing the width of each seat by almost two inches, to 17 inches across.
Qatar Airways said its existing fleet of 28 B777-300ER aircraft would have the new layout by the end of next year, while all new 777 orders will have the 10-across configuration.
The move will bring Qatar Airways in line with Gulf competitiors Etihad and Emirates, both of which have 10 seats across in economy on their 777s.
Hotter for longer
Although it’s already September, the heat and humidity are lingering and could last into October, according to meteorologists.
In May, they predicted that the return of the cyclical, global weather phenomenon known as El Nino could affect Qatar’s conditions, making it a hotter summer which lasts for longer:
“This situation may lead to a rise in temperature in East and South Africa, Asia and Gulf area the coming summer,” Qatar Meteorology Department said.
And this July and August were hotter and stickier than in previous years. In a statement last month, the MET said maximum temperatures in July hit 48.2C (119F) in Doha – some 6C higher than what Qatar usually sees during that month.
Outside the capital, temperatures exceeded 50C (122F), which was 7.4C higher than the average. The MET continued:
“The rise in temperature will remain particularly in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf for the next couple of months (up to the month of October) as well as the increase in the relative humidity…”
If that’s not enough, the MET is also predicting yet another dust storm tomorrow, as dust over Iraq has moved southeast.
Have you noticed anything else different around town? Thoughts?