A view shows the exterior of Doha’s Alhazm mall, developed by real estate tycoon Mohammed al-Emadi, in Qatar May 14, 2016. Alhazm Mall/Handout via REUTERS
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Five years ago Samer Habib left the United Arab Emirates and moved to Qatar where he opened a restaurant that turned a profit serving Lebanese salads and sandwiches to expats.Many of the foreign workers who make up the bulk of the 2.5 million-strong population have been affected.This trend risks increasingly polarizing the country between wealthy Qataris at the top and Asian blue-collar workers at the bottom.Businesses that rely on the custom of professional foreign workers with their tax-free salaries and disposable income, including restaurants like Habib's, private schools, car dealerships and shopping malls, could struggle to survive.In 2015 state-run Qatar Petroleum let more than 1,000 foreign workers go as part of restructuring, according to the energy minister.It is unclear exactly how many of Qatar's 1.6 million foreign workers are departing, and the country's population is still growing due to an influx of Asian workers building highways and stadiums for the 2022 soccer World Cup.But industry sources, including three company CEOs, told Reuters that job cuts were widespread and tens of thousands of white-collar workers had been laid off in the last two years.Two other malls are set to open later this year – the Doha Festival City and the Mall of Qatar, a building equivalent in size to 50 football pitches with over 500 stores.
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