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As the young generation tries to find its place in Kuwait’s job market, more young professionals are gravitating toward IT-related businesses.
Kuwait sounds like an excellent place to be born and grow up, and indeed it is. A high-income country with reasonably good standards of living, Kuwait is in a position to think about more important issues, such as the future of its young generation. The country’s Public Authority for Youth is one of the organizations in charge of this. The authority has an inclusive definition of ‘youth’, considering anyone between 14 and 34 are young enough to benefit from its initiatives. The Youth Public Authority (YPA) is particularly keen to make a difference in three areas: the psychological health of young individuals, their physical well-being, and the improvement of their skills.
Good employment opportunities can contribute to the betterment of all the aforementioned factors. Psychological well-being, in particular, has been linked to work. A 2020 scholarly paper by Drake and Wallach published in the journal Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences noted that “unemployment worsens mental health and gaining employment can improve mental health.” It is estimated that while unemployment is generally low in Kuwait, it is higher among young individuals, at 12-25 percent according to various sources.
YPA is aware of the challenges faced by the younger generation in the job market. And, therefore, it is lobbying with various sectors across the economy to persuade them to set aside employment opportunities for the youth. Former YPA director general Mishaal Alrubaie had a meeting with the Kuwaiti Union of Banks to discuss “mechanisms of joint cooperation to support the banking sector with trained nationals and enhance its contribution to raising the degree of youth employment in the private sector,” according to Arab Times. The Union of Banks has announced 100 special job opportunities for the country’s youth following the negotiations.
At the same time, various businesses are being encouraged to admit young talents to their midst, and entrepreneurship is encouraged among the youth, so that the youth will learn to be in charge and proactively create job opportunities for themselves. Kuwait’s business ecosystem is famously conducive to SMEs and start-ups, especially thanks to the country’s wide-ranging tax exemptions. “Young entrepreneurs do not pay taxes, barely pay any utilities, and almost all services are provided for free,” Alrubaie told TBY. There are also easy-access loans for the country’s youth with entrepreneurial ambitions. Such loans often come with a grace period of five years, which is more than enough for an SME to take off. The loans are up to KWD400,000 (USD1 million), which are sufficient to implement start-up ideas in many sectors, if not all.
The only problem, however, is that Kuwait’s prosperous economy is already dominated by long-established corporations. Competing in saturated markets is not easy, especially for young SMEs. The youth are, therefore, encouraged to focus on emerging sectors, where there are no traditional market players. YPA is guiding young entrepreneurs to try their luck in a business with a high chance of success. “We found based on research that the least volatile sector in Kuwait is the IT and technology sphere,” Alrubaie told TBY. There is no wonder that most Kuwaiti start-ups launched after 2020 are IT related.
The IT sector has been changing enormously recently. While new developments such as remote work and AI have changed the skill set required for success in the sector, in many cases traditional university courses have failed to catch up with the new realities. It seems, therefore, essential for the youth of Kuwait to be equipped with the right skill set to succeed. “We have a job creation program where we are focusing on skills and career paths instead of a university degree. Having a degree is not enough to land a job. You need a certain skill set with it,” noted Alrubaie in his interview with TBY.
This brings us to the importance of skill development in youth, and IT literacy in particular. YPA is currently running a ‘re-education’ program, helping young people to adjust their skills and education to the real needs of the job market. Courses in cloud computing, coding, and web development are currently in vogue. Other government departments are running similar programs. The country’s Public Authority for Manpower recently launched an initiative called ‘My Trail to Professionalism’. In-depth career advice has been given to young graduates, while ‘offering an entire rationalization of the non-public sector and its advantages,” according to Kuwait News.
There are talks that the country may start a career-orientation program targeting students at an earlier age, so as to enlighten the Kuwaiti youth about the realities of the job market while they are still at university or even high-school. This will hopefully prepare the future workforce of the country for more ambitious careers in the private sector, where the young generation can show off its entrepreneurial skills and business acumen to build Kuwait’s future economy.