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KUWAIT CITY, Nov 8: Chairman of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry Muhammad Al-Saqer affirmed that Kuwait, which has invested in the expertise, has the right to continue to benefit from those over 60 years of age, especially since international studies have proven that the age group between 60 and 70 years is the most productive, reports Al-Anba daily. Kuwait views the issue of reforming the structure of employment and demographics, Al-Sager said, as a three-dimensional national issue, the first and the most important is reforming the state of the public budget and strengthening the national identity and cross the bridge to make Kuwait from a service to a productive nation.
These dimensions, he said, are represented in reforming the employment structure and demographics, and not through what he called “segmented and unthoughtful decisions”, but through an integrated long-term plan based on Kuwait’s needs and its development model. He explained the second dimension revolves around the fact that most of the job opportunities resulting from the “sixty decision” do not attract national workers at least for the time being, noting that “it would have been more useful to direct efforts towards eliminating the phenomenon of visa trade since after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic the shocking facts and dangerous repercussions were revealed. He pointed out that the “new sixty decision” cut the cost for those covered by it in half and reduced pressure on the health services system, but it is still a single decision outside the context of the comprehensive plan to reform the demographic structure. Al-Sager said “‘excluding’ expatriate workers in the country is surprising, the exempting from the decision those who hold the Palestinian nationality is a generous and appreciative approach, but it must include other Arab nationalities whose countries live in harsh conditions.”
He went on to say after sparking a heated debate over a period of 14 months, the Board of Directors of the Public Authority for Manpower approved the cancellation of its decision 520/2020, issued in August 2020, which forbid the renewal of work permits for expatriates who have reached the age of 60 and above, and who hold only a secondary school certificate or less. In response to a question, ‘Why did the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry in particular, and you personally, played a distinguished role in working to cancel or amend this decision’? Al-Sager said, “At the outset, there must be an absolute emphasis on the importance and necessity of addressing the large and dangerous imbalance in the structure of the workforce and demographics in Kuwait.
This is something the Chamber has been calling for, for more than 3 decades. “The Chamber’s position on this issue stems from the fact that it is a three-dimensional national issue. From the economical point of view, the most important part was to address the state’s general budget situation; from the social point of view the basic need was to strengthen national identity and societal security and politically it is vital that Kuwait must cross the bridge to transform the country into a state of producers. “However, fixing this imbalance – in the Chamber’s opinion – cannot be achieved with sudden and piecemeal decisions such as Resolution 520/2020, but through an integrated long-term plan with accompanying, supportive and gradual legislation, procedures and measures that are based on the country’s needs, and to enhance its economic competitiveness, societal security, and international relations.” It is this scientific and comprehensive view of the importance of the issue, its difficulty and the intertwining of its dimensions on production, investment and prices, the Chamber called to work to remedy the negative repercussions of the administrative decision 520/2020 or the decision of the 60, as it was known to be called, after studying the memoranda it received from many unions, companies and institutions.
The Chamber’s move included writing to His Highness the Prime Minister, meeting or writing to all ministries and relevant official and economic bodies. As president of the Chamber, “it was my duty to make every possible effort to move within the framework of Kuwait’s interest especially since the decision was unstudied that happened in light of the pressures on the health during the pandemic. During a meeting, Al-Sager said, “Knowing that international scientific studies have proven that the age group between 60 and 70 years is the most productive stage of work, knowing that most of those included in the “sixty resolution” have worked in Kuwait for many years and whose experiences are refined and their capabilities developed in the Kuwaiti labor market, it is still Kuwait’s right to benefit from these experiences. Above all, it must be noted that the vast majority of job opportunities affected by the decision are opportunities that do not attract national labor at the present time, at least, and this fact is known to the decision-makers themselves. “It is remarkable to note here that Resolution 520/2020 was issued at a time when Kuwait was following up with much sadness and anger the shocking facts revealed by the health pandemic and counting the cost and repercussions due to the visa trade and the exploitation of marginal migrant workers.
“The entire country was demanding to know the names of institutions, companies and individuals involved in this sinful visa trade but instead all concerned and competent authorities concentrating their efforts to combat this phenomenon, the Public Authority for Manpower chose to start its “reform” steps with legal workers with long experience in the Kuwaiti labor market. In any case, the difference in jurisprudence on issues of reform and development is normal and may be necessary. What is important is that recourse to this difference is in the public interest and on the basis of study, dialogue and participation.
“On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and in my own name, I praise and appreciate His Highness the Crown Prince, Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad, whose interest in this subject and his follow-up had the greatest and best effect from the point of deep understanding of all dimensions of the economic, national and humanitarian issue. “In the meeting held by the Board of Directors of the Public Authority for Manpower on Thursday, the 4th of this month, the Council approved the cancellation of the “sixty decision” based on the opinion of the fatwa and legislation as you mentioned, and approved – by a majority of votes – a new decision allowing the renewal of work permits for expatriates, who have reached the age of sixty and above and hold only a high school diploma or less, provided they pay an annual fee of 500 dinars, and provided that they have comprehensive and private health insurance. Does the new decision agree with the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s view of this issue? “In this regard, it must be remembered that Resolution 520/2020 in its first form prohibited the renewal of work permits for those who were covered by it absolutely.
That is, every migrant worker who has reached the age of sixty or more and holds only a high school diploma or less must leave Kuwait. Then the decision was amended to allow the renewal of the work permit for an annual fee of 2000 dinars, meaning that the amendment was in fact a confirmation of the original decision, but in another form; because the vast majority of those covered by the decision are low wage earners who will not be able to pay the required fee (2000 dinars annually). As for the new decision, from a financial point of view, it is nothing more than a reduction of this fee to nearly half, but the new decision is characterized by reducing the pressure on the health services system in the country by a very simple percentage that does not exceed 2 percent.
“The Chamber does not offer its own view on this particular issue. What the Chamber offers is the same as what all local and international scientific studies say, that addressing the serious imbalance in the structure of employment and demographics in the country is not addressed by unilateral, sudden and negotiable decisions, but rather through a comprehensive integrated plan as already mentioned. And the new resolution – like the previous one – falls completely outside this context. “Addressing the structure of employment and demographics cannot be based on jurisprudence, no matter how sincere, and on trying to reconcile different opinions, no matter how close or divergent they are. Price levels and the cost of living, and addressing the imbalance in the structure of employment and demographics is an integral part of the development and reform strategy and it cannot be separated.
“We are in the room are wondering why this urgency in this particular part? Where is the justice in getting rid of expatriates working in the state? And if the exclusion of Palestinian nationals is a well-deserved and appreciative humanitarian gesture, what about other Arab nationalities whose countries are experiencing harsh conditions that impose? Note that the prevailing principle in dealing with those who have advanced in age is that they obtain new benefits in appreciation of their long services. As for the decision of the Board of Directors of the Public Authority for Manpower, it goes against this just and humane trend, as it imposes fees on them that are not imposed on those with less service, experience and paid higher than those affected by the 60s decision. “Of all these facts, I am very hopeful that the political leadership will have a final say in this decision, bringing matters back to their scientific and objective track in light of Kuwait’s interest, and in light of considerations of justice and humanity,” Al-Sager concluded.