Khalid Al-Naama, Family Policy Director at the Doha International Family Institute, explains how and why it launched a project designed to help balance work and life
Qatari women in government institutions are now being given greater opportunity to strike a work-family balance and overcome the challenge of “role conflict” following the introduction of more flexible working for them by the government of Qatar.
Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), a member of Qatar Foundation, played a pivotal role in this new policy, through its leading role in advocating for developing policies that support family cohesion and well-being, and building an evidence base that helps nurture and improve policies that address and align with society’s needs.
Our philosophy at DIFI is to observe what is going on locally, as well as global trends
“Our philosophy at DIFI is to observe what is going on locally, as well as global trends. We are always working to develop innovative solutions to current challenges and any changes that may occur in the future,” said Khaled Al-Naama, Director of the Family Policies Department at DIFI.
“This means that we are working to develop scientific and evidence-based suggestions and then submitting policy briefs for evaluation.”
A study conducted by DIFI, titled Work-Family Balance: Challenges, Experiences, and Implications for Families, provided scientific evidence that contributed to a draft resolution on part-time working for Qatari women. It is the first stage of a broader research project on family-friendly policies which DIFI is now working on – work that is ultimately intended to enhance family cohesion and ease life pressures, while reducing job turnover rates and ensuring skills and workforce quality are preserved.
The next axis that we are going to study is the cost-benefit analysis, where the recommendations we provide must be convincing and satisfying for profit-making, semi-governmental and private institutions
“In the initial phase, our focus was on the state’s public institutions, which are the ministries,” said Al-Naama, who explained that the key outputs of the preliminary study, developed over a period of months following the approval of the study in 2018, showed that many Qatari families who participated in the research suffered from family stress.
The study also revealed that a significant percentage of the participants were considering leaving their jobs in sectors which lack flexibility, and that many Qatari females may lose their enthusiasm to continue working after forming a family and having more children. This is despite the high levels of academic qualifications that Qatari females hold.
The methodology of this research was based on the principle of "snowball sampling". This entailed obtaining double research samples from Qatari families and different age groups, ensuring the different demographics of the various parts of Doha were represented. It found that 75 percent of the research participants confirmed they felt exposed to family stress as a result of increased work requirements, especially women, and that this directly affects the stability of the family as a whole.
“From here, it was necessary to find non-traditional solutions to meet these challenges and help maintain family cohesion,” said Al-Naama. “Accordingly, we value the adoption of the recommendation of the part-time system by the Cabinet, which offers Qatari female employees in the governmental sector more options to choose what best matches their family needs and job requirements through the part-time system.
This is just the initial stage of the policy brief that was presented under the umbrella of a broader project on family-friendly policies
“We have witnessed the decisions taken in this regard, and it’s something we value.”
Despite the focus of this research on Qatari society in particular, Al-Naama confirmed that DIFI has been reviewing other studies addressing the same topic in other regions of the world by examining research literature in countries that have adopted such models in work systems. They have also noted that the global trend to adopt flexible working arrangements increased after the COVID-19 pandemic, as many institutions and companies around the world adopted mixed and innovative working methods to continue working through digital platforms.
"We are still witnessing reluctance from some sectors, such as the financial and banking sectors, and oil and gas, in terms of adopting flexible working systems due to work-related concerns,” said Al-Naama.
“Because of this, the next axis that we are going to study is the cost-benefit analysis, where the recommendations we provide must be convincing and satisfying for profit-making, semi-governmental and private institutions, which is an aspect we keep in mind and expect to have clearer data on in the near future.
“This is just the initial stage of the policy brief that was presented under the umbrella of a broader project on family-friendly policies, and which we hope it will bear fruit in the coming stages, through our constant endeavor to develop and nurture scientific and evidence-based policies and decisions.”