The problem of the imbalance in Kuwait’s population structure and the increase in expatriate labor has become the talk of people in recent years, which requires solutions within a comprehensive vision that achieves balance and justice between Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis. The population of Kuwait is about 4.5 million and the proportion of citizens is 30 percent, which is around 1.4 million, compared to Arab expats (approximately 28 percent), Asians (40 percent) and other foreign nationalities.
It is well known that the development process in Kuwait has resulted in an expansion of the volume of demand for labor. The small size of the Kuwaiti population and a lack of national labor led to facilitating the recruitment and employment of expatriate labor to meet the requirements of the expansion of economic activities and for the establishment and operation of infrastructure projects. The acceleration of growth has had a significant impact on the increase in the number of expatriates at rates that exceeded citizens, resulting in the disruption of the structure of the population and the labor market.
It is no secret that the main reason for the imbalance in Kuwait’s population structure is the huge number of marginal laborers due to the existence of a group of phantom companies that are bringing in redundant labor for the purpose of profit in the so-called residency trade. I believe that it is important to establish a firm and clear policy of workers in the state to identify the actual needs that are required of foreign labor, and the development of regulations and laws governing the affairs of expatriate workers and monitoring their status.
I also believe that all institutions and companies that bring more labor than their actual needs should submit periodic reports to the executive and legislative authorities to examine and evaluate the conditions of employment. It is not difficult to regulate the growth of the population, both Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti, in order to improve the population structure for the benefit of all and improve the labor force in the public and private sectors, as well as improving the quality and productivity of expatriate workers.
This will preserve Kuwait’s reputation in the international community as a human rights defender and its commitment to international charters.
Kuwait has been negatively affected in international forums concerned with human rights because of residency merchants and the sponsorship system, which resulted in the existence of huge numbers of marginal laborers in Kuwait. The issue also became a means for the interference of some states in the internal affairs of Kuwait on the pretext of protecting the rights of their citizens.
I think there are solutions to this dilemma related to policies, by stabilizing the size of the expatriate population by a specific rate of all nationalities and reducing marginal expatriate labor. Also, regulations and laws should be set to regulate the work of expatriates in the country to ensure their rights, as well as the rights of the sponsors. Application of international standards on security, housing and health insurance may lead to the creation of a balance.
An important feature of Kuwait’s population is the high number of young people and youth. The number of Kuwaitis aged 0 to 34 represents 70 percent of the total Kuwaiti population, while the number of non-Kuwaiti expatriates in this age group is 52 percent in the country. The high percentage of young people among Kuwaitis is a test for the country over the development strategies for education and controlling the pace of employment and the parameters of the labor market.
These demographic shifts in Kuwait over a period of more than seven decades require systematic treatments to rationalize the population growth in the country. It is important to have a serious intention and willingness to implement actual policies – the responsibility is shared between the government and the parliament.
By Muna Al-Fuzai