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Why replacing expatriates is not possible
May 26, 2018, 4:18 pm

Many expatriates working in Kuwait’s public sector must have breathed a sigh of relief last week to hear the Head of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) admit that it was not realistic to expect replacing expatriates from the public sector any time soon.

Speaking during a media interview last week, the Head of CSC, Ahmad Al-Jassar, said that Kuwait could not replace all expatriates in public sector, especially in the health and education sectors, as there were not enough qualified candidates from among Kuwaiti applicants to replace the foreigners. He added that, of the total 78,317 foreigners working in the public sector, the majority where employed in the health and education sector.

“Around 76 percent of foreigners in the public sectors are employed by the ministries of education and health,” he said. “The health ministry has 33,303 expatriates and the education ministry has 26,433. We have regularly informed the competent committees that replacing them would not be possible for the time being,” admitted Al-Jassar.

In a bid to address the country’s demographic imbalance, where citizens account for less than a third of the population, Kuwait has embarked on a massive Kuwaitization drive to reduce reliance on foreigners and boost employment for nationals.

The drive is being closely monitored by several lawmakers who have been pushing for a genuine ‘Kuwaitization’ by replacing expatriates with citizens, initially in the public sector and later reducing their numbers in the private sector. According to the latest figures from the Central Statistical Bureau, there are around 12,000 young Kuwaitis without a job.

However, Al-Jassar stressed that there were not enough qualified Kuwaitis to replace the foreigners in the public sector. “We have 8,158 Kuwaitis who do not have the necessary advanced academic qualifications and 3,479 who have no degrees,” he said. “There are also 3,828 Kuwaitis who have only the middle school certificate and 851 who hold high school certificate.”

He added the situation meant any drive to replace foreigners, especially in the health and education sectors would be highly difficult. “We study the requests by all public departments to appoint employees and we assess the availability of Kuwaiti citizens,” Al-Jassar said.

In September, the commission said it created 17,936 vacancies for Kuwaiti nationals in the public sector to deal with applications from around 22,000 Kuwaitis who had signed up for recruitment.

Despite a robust drive by the government to make the private sector more attractive to Kuwaiti nationals, foreigners continue to overwhelm the sector by accounting for 97 percent of jobs in this sector. Most Kuwaitis opt for government jobs and would rather sit and wait for a public sector vacancy than enter the private sector. According to government labor statistics released in 2016, about 58 percent of Kuwaitis refuse to work in the private sector and would rather wait for an opening in the public sector.

Statistics from the Public authority for Civil Information (PACI) for December 2017 show that there are 322,381 Kuwaitis working in the public sector, representing 79 percent of the total Kuwaiti labor force. Government jobs lure nationals because of the work security that it offers; once employed in the public sector a national cannot be dismissed unless in extreme cases. Young citizens are also attracted by less work pressure, more relaxed timings, fewer working hours and longer holidays that a government job offers.

- Staff Report


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