Hello Kuwait

Does it really matter if my plumber is aged over 60

Mohanlal (name changed) has been living and working in Kuwait for more than 25 years. He arrived sometime in the late nineties with no degree in hand but a lot of experience and desire to work and support his family back home, in a small village in Rajasthan, India.

It took Mohanlal, a quick learner and a hard worker, only a couple of years to venture on his own. Mohanlal left his job and began freelancing because it gave him more flexibility and money, as well as allowed him to take up small subcontracts from various contractors, who found him both dependable and cost effective.

The firm that he worked for and many others like them now outsourced work to him, as Mohanlal grew so did his small band of workers, some who were daily wagers. Mohanlal understood the plumbing business quite well, and due to his extensive experience could solve difficult plumbing jobs with ease and at a cost that was far less than what customers would otherwise have to pay. This saving was always passed on to the customer, most of whom were Kuwaitis. Mohanlal was trusted, appreciated and looked upon to always deliver. He worked sincerely and sometimes worked 7 days a week.

Muuhan as he was called by his Kuwaiti clients says he worked on more than 1,000 villas in different areas of Kuwait. He has literally seen houses rise from the desert in Kuwait during his 25 years as a plumber.

Mohanlal has done well for himself, he has educated his children, built a house for his family and even helped his relatives in their hard times. He has also looked after his ailing parents. Mohanlal reached the unlucky age of sixty this year. He knows that he still has many more years of productive work left in him and that the experience and knowledge he has gained over the past 25 years can be best put to use here in Kuwait. His small team of plumbers depend on his input to ensure the technical aspect of their work is perfect.

The recent decision to evict expats over 60 with no college degree has put a spanner in Mohanlal’s plans. He is in a dilemma to stay and continue here or to return back home where he might not be able to start over again. The steep new fees for renewal of visa means he will no longer be able to work ‘for cheap’ as he puts it. He will have no choice but to pass on these high fees to his clients, many of whom might not be willing to pay the higher charges.

The story of Mohanlal is not isolated, but just one of the many thousands of expats without college degrees, who have crossed the age of 60, or will reach this unlucky age in the coming year or two. These expats who have lived and worked here for decades are not the ones who will be replaced by Kuwaitis. Young Kuwaitis need to replace young expats not older ones who are part of building the economy of Kuwait. In the coming years, Kuwait will be flush with young graduates, many of whom need to upskill to replace skilled expats.

The private sector has thousands of non-graduate expats over 60 on their payroll; the owners of these businesses know the value these workers bring to the organization, and are keen on retaining them. As one employer put it, these expats are tried and tested and are not likely to go job hopping to another employer. In many organizations these workers are the ones holding the fort with their knowledge and experience.

As is the case with sickness when the diagnosis is wrong the treatment will surely be faulty. The belief that 60 year old and above expats with no college degree are detrimental to the economy and country has confused everyone. Whoever has put this theory forward without facts and figures need to just look around neighbouring countries where several of these people are being offered Golden Visas instead of showing them the door.

There are far more urgent issues the country needs to look into than create more uncertainity in a marketplace that needs more confidence building than anything else at this time. A growing market will have more jobs and opportunities and Kuwaitis will surely benefit from this than a shrinking economy where jobs are being lost rather than being replaced.

The future of any economy should be the private sector and more regulation will create more hindrances to growth. If the government is deciding on who private sector employs then as in all other aspects the competitiveness of the private sector will diminish as we are witnessing now.

– An Expatriate
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