KUWAIT CITY, Dec 24: The decision of Kuwait’s government to reduce the number of expatriates could backfire, considering that 2.9 million of 4.3 million people currently residing in the country are foreign workers, reports Al-Rai daily quoting blouinnews.com – a groundbreaking news website in the US. Following the announcement made by Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and State Minister for Planning and Development Affairs Hind Al-Subaih on the decision taken by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to force expatriates of all nationalities who are over 50 to leave the country as of March 1, 2016; Louise Blouin Media published on its website an analysis entitled, “Kuwait: Will expelling and replacing expats backfire?” about the Kuwaiti government’s plan to amend the population structure.
The age limit will apply to foreigners working for the government and all professions where Kuwaitis can fill vacancies and are on the waiting list. The analysis considers the decision controversial, saying, “The elephant in the room, however, is that most Kuwaitis lack the qualifications to fill skilled positions, and consider unskilled positions beneath them”.
It went on to say, “The number of Kuwaitis on the waiting list — at most 20,000 with intermediate and lower qualifications – is far exceeded by the number of expats who will be affected”. It also quoted the statistics released by the Central Statistical Bureau of Kuwait in 2014, stating the unemployment rate among Kuwaitis reached five percent, while that of foreigners was just 2.4 percent. The statistics showed a staggering 84.1 percent of Kuwaitis work in the government sector and only 9.8 percent work in the private sector.
Commenting on the statistics, the analysis pointed out that about 44 percent of the unemployed Kuwaitis do not accept jobs in the private sector if offered to them. This attitude needs change in order for the government plan to bear any success, let alone the fact that it might have negative implication on Kuwait’s labor market, the analysis added. It also mentioned a decision announced earlier by Al-Subaih that the expatriate residency permit will henceforth be linked with academic qualification. It added contractors will be forced to exit foreign workers immediately after their projects are concluded, and to encourage Kuwaitis to enter into the private sector workforce.
According to the analysis, “69.4 percent of foreigners work in the private sector, 18.7 percent work in the household sector and only 7.5 percent work in the government sector”, arguing that, even highly-educated foreigners have a tough time finding a job outside of the government.
Meanwhile, recent statistics released by the Public Authority for Civil Information disclosed that 38,196 of 108,878 expats with a university degree are working in the public sector, while 79,277 are unemployed. The most likely outcome is that firms will continually have expats work in Kuwait on a temporary, per-project basis.
For example, last week the Kuwaiti officials agreed to simplify procedures for recruitment of about 60,000 workers from abroad to facilitate an environmental fuel project. However, the companies involved must use a quota of Kuwaiti personnel among the estimated workforce, and ensure that foreign workers leave the country after completing their assignments.
In conclusion, the analysis suggested it will be in the best interest of Kuwait to implement such plans in a more advised gradual manner without haste, due to the fact that, “an enforced brain drain will hardly help if Kuwaitis can’t — or won’t — pick up the slack”.