The decision last month by the Minister of State for Municipal AffairsRana Al-Faris to begin the phased replacement of all expatriate staff in the Municipality from 1 September and replace them with national workers is said to have commenced with the first batch of retrenched employees receiving termination notices.
The process is expected to continue over three phases and culminate with 100 percent Kuwaitization by July 2023. Each phase will result in ending a third of the contracts with expatriates, with the second and third phases to be implemented in February and July of 2023 respectively.
The retrenchment plan excludes children of Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaitis, citizens of the Gulf states, bedoun, service workers such as drivers, and 50 percent of workers in burial services. The ministerial decision also prohibits the reappointment or transfer of foreign workers between municipality departments.
However, analysts warn of operational disruptions in the municipality because some of its jobs require skills that are not often available in the national workforce, despite the government’s plans to train and prepare national workers.
This could also cause labor shortages and disruptions in project delivery, as well as act as a deterrent for white-collar immigrants, and thus lead to the transfer of foreign workers to other countries in the region.
Political analysts believe the government is keen to speed up the Kuwaitization process ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of the month, in a bid to appease voters, and allay criticisms regarding the skewed demographics in the country.
According to plans envisioned by the authorities in 2018, the demographic structure will be transformed from its current 70:30 ratio between expats and nationals, to around 50:50 by 2025 and to 30:70 in favor of nationals by 2030.
While this looks highly unrealistic, the government is said to be pursuing a policy of replacement rather than creating new jobs to absorb nationals in the public sector workforce. This is apparently being done to prevent new workers further engorging the public sector and straining the wage bill in the budget.
Meanwhile, several ministries have announced job opportunities for nationals in construction projects being undertaken by them. Last week, the Ministry of Electricity, Water and Renewable Energy (MEW) announced the provision of job opportunities for Kuwaitis and the children of Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men in the context of encouraging national cadres to work in the private sector.
The ministry said these job opportunities will be made available in the private sector, specifically with companies that have signed contracts with the ministry, and called on those wishing to obtain an opportunity to visit the ministry’s website to apply for the available opportunities.
Reports indicate that currently there are four contracts affiliated with the MEW as a first stage, in which those wishing to work can be employed, whether citizens or children of Kuwaiti women. “More than 200 employees can be employed on these contracts according to the percentage specified for each contract,” noted a statement by the ministry.