A government statistic, referred to the National Assembly, revealed that the number of expatriate workers with high school diplomas and below reached about 1.5 million excluding domestic workers, which showed an increase of 200,000 workers into the labor market in the last five years, Al Qabas daily said.
According to the statistics, the number of workers with a high school certificate is approximately 900,000 workers, compared to 114,000 workers with a primary school certificate. Meanwhile, those with a university degree at the end of 2019 totaled to about 212,000 workers, compared to 12,000 workers with a postgraduate degree.
The Parliamentary Human Resources Committee is interested to outline a quota system for nationalities to address the demographic imbalance and limit the entry of expatriates into the labor market. The government alongside the committee’s technical office want to place the decision for determining percentages to the competent authorities, which will be required to estimate these percentages in a way that does not harm the functioning of the public sector, and job requirements in both the public and private sectors, and allows for reduction of percentages of expatriates as the State sees fit, and replaces them with the nationals as part of the Kuwaitization policy.
The technical office had stated that it is safer to fix the percentage of expatriates in relation to the number of citizens or half of them, and not place a relative limit for each nationality, for the purposes of flexibility to meet the changing requirements of the labor market for foreign services or expertise.
A relative quota for each nationality may hinder the administration from finalizing international agreements with other countries to use their nationals’ expertise in a specific field, or fulfill the country’s job requirements in another field as the expat’s nationality may exceed the percentages specified in the attached table, which may cause potential problems. There should possibly be a specific general percentage for foreign nationalities without going into details. The first time when an expat enters the country, there needs to be an appraisal of the need for his services and academic qualifications, without considering his nationality, as the real problem is numbers, not nationalities, said the daily.
Kuwait is grappling with methods to reduce the large presence of expats in the country, with many warning the sudden reduction could have a negative impact on various economic sectors.
A sudden reduction of large numbers of expats could have a serious negative impact on the domestic economy, warns the National Assembly’s human resources panel that was entrusted with studying ways to significantly reduce the number of expats in the country via a study.
According to the panel, a sharp reduction will have the effect of diminishing the market’s purchasing power, considerably impact the real estate market, as the majority of apartments are occupied by expats, which will be left vacant, lower the availability of labor in the market, particularly as the private sector strongly depends on foreign workers, and finally hit the private education market, where expats are required in certain specialties. There is presently a looming crisis in terms of the shortage of teachers in some scientific specializations.
On the other hand, real estate sources are expecting the prices of investment housing properties to decrease by 20% to 35%, and a possible drop in occupancy rates to about 50% in some areas due to the inevitable emigration of a large number of expats and the reduction of salaries.
Some of the steps undertaken by the government to substantially cut the number of expats, is a government plan to set a certain ceiling for expats with the option to be either equal to the population of Kuwaitis or just half their numbers.
The government’s various decisions aims to cut as many as 360,000 expats almost immediately, most of them illegals and senior expats above 60 years of age. Recently, a ban was enforced against the renewal of work visas for expats who are 60 and above, and who only have a high school diploma and lower in addition they will be unable to transfer their residency visa. They will be obliged to leave Kuwait when the decision will come into effect in 2021.
Moreover, an unprecedented campaign against illegals remaining in the country will start soon, who are estimated to number about 75,000, Al Qabas daily reports. The illegals are in hiding, and refused to take advantage of the amnesty period recently granted by the ministry for illegal expats to leave the country. These violators are unable to amend their residency status because they have been an illegal resident in Kuwait for a very long time, unlike about 15,000 other violators who qualify to amend their residency status after paying the penalties.
According to the latest figures, the number of expats are 3.35 million against 1.45 million Kuwaiti citizens. However, all the population structure proposals exclude as many as 750,000 domestic helpers from any solution.
In addition, expats are slowly being excluded from certain government jobs and many are losing their jobs as part of a replacement policy by turning more jobs from public sector jobs to Kuwaitis.
Previous attempts by the authorities to regulate and reduce the number of expatriates in the country have been less than successful. However, this time around, there appears to be a consensus within the government and the legislature to remedy the country’s distorted demographic structure. This view has gained additional traction in recent months in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and low oil price scenario that has resulted in increased economic and social pressures on Kuwait.