Like many of its Middle Eastern neighbours, Kuwait has become a key source of employment for expat workers. According to recent statistics, over two thirds of the population in Kuwait is now compromised of expat workers.
Many countries see expat workers as being a very positive factor, allowing them to import knowledge and experience, not to mention man-power. As a result many Middle Eastern countries have been able to rapidly grow their economies and develop their infrastructure, transforming many of these countries from desert to shiny city in a matter of decades.
Kuwait, though, sees things rather differently. With native Kuwaiti’s making up just 31% of the population now, concerns are rife about Kuwaiti’s becoming a minority in their own country. Keeping their cultural heritage alive under such attack can be problematic to say the least.
Then there are the ongoing problems with infrastructure. Whether it’s the healthcare system or the public transport network, Kuwaiti’s are allegedly growing frustrated with their public services becoming swamps with expats. It is time, they have decided, to start taking control of the situation.
Native Kuwaiti’s have complained about missing out on employment opportunities, in favour of foreign workers who are often willing to accept lower wages to do the same job. The rift is causing tension in some quarters; something that the government is keen to avert.
In the recent past a number of initiatives have been launched to try and stymie the uncontrolled influx of foreign nationals. Most recently, this has taken the form of a cull on expats, promised by the former government, whereby numbers of expats would be slowly and methodically reduced in coming years so as to return the country to a more balanced position.
However this plan has largely been ignored by the current government, who have instead suggested an alternative route; quite simply a freeze on new expat workers.
Another option floated in the past has involved the deportation of any unskilled migrant workers in the country, in order to free up opportunities for local workers, not to mention eliminating “non-essential” drains on resources.
The latest plan to be announced doesn’t seek to actively reduce the number of expat workers in the kingdom, but simply to instil a simple one-in-one-out policy. Kuwait, therefore, promises that it will be closing its border to any more expats, only accepting further workers when some of the existing expats finally leave.
Only time will tell quite how this new policy will work – and for how long. Kuwait has a history of testing out ideas to control the expat population, but many have fallen by the wayside in recent years, to be replaced by new concepts.
The news for expats is simple; be aware that you are likely to experience increased difficulties entering Kuwait in the near future, and it may be advisable to consider alternative destinations if you are planning to move abroad for work.