Recent statistics from the government reveal that the number of expatriates entering the country on work permits has been steadily declining. The figures show that a total of 802,000 expatriates entered Kuwait during the five-year period from 2015 to 2019.
In its report to the National Assembly, the government said that the number of expatriate workers entering the country on work permits in 2019 dropped by half to 91,000, from the 188,000 in 2018. The report also revealed that the number of workers granted work permits in 2018 and 2019, was far lower than the 222,000 that were given work permits in 2017.
In a related development, the government is said to be planning the introduction of smart recruitment schemes for expatriate workers, in a bid to deal with the labor market imbalances in the country. As part of this strategic initiative, more jobs in the public and private sector will be made available for citizens, while technology and digitization will be leveraged to reduce the need for migrant workers.
Government studies have shown that labor market imbalances affect the country’s security, as well as facets of its social, economic, cultural and urban milieu, each of which results in severe implications for Kuwait.
Some of the implications arising from labor market imbalances include inflation, the concentration of specific expatriate groups living in limited places, the spread of inappropriate behaviors, and the high cost of providing subsidies to these expatriates. Other implications are the promotion of a culture of dependence on expatriate workers without transferring knowledge, and direct damage to the infrastructure, especially healthcare, and the formation of groups in illegal housing in the absence of separate cities for workers. There is also the emergence of habits not compatible with the culture of society, the high proportion of uneducated males, as well as the absence of an added knowledge or investment value for marginal employment.
The report also shows that the annual average of Kuwaiti workers in the government sector during the period from 2002 to 2019 was 74 percent, compared to 26 percent for expatriate workers in the same period. The rate of increase of Kuwaiti workers in the government sector during the 2002 to 2019 period was115 percent, while the increase in public sector expatriate workers during the same period stood at 85 percent.