The latest survey by InterNations brought surprising results for many Kuwaitis and raised controversy here. The firm collected votes from 14,300 expats representing 174 nationalities living in 191 countries to rate 43 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven. Some of these aspects include healthcare, safety, childcare, education and the cost of living.
According to the survey, Kuwait sits at the bottom, going down notably in the ‘Working Abroad’ and ‘Personal Finance’ indices, ranking 67th among the worst countries for expats. The UAE came in 40th with one of the biggest drops in ranking owing to a drastic decline in indices such as ‘Cost of Living’ and ‘Working Abroad’. Other countries with high declines include Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
Personally, I am not convinced with the study or its results. I do not think that the criteria on which it was based are fully accurate. This is my view. I do not say this because I am a Kuwaiti citizen, but there are obvious elements that do not need statistics.
According to statistics by the Public Authority for Civil Information, Kuwait’s population by the end of June 2018 reached 4,588,148, of which 1,385,960 are Kuwaitis, while the number of non-Kuwaitis is 3,202,000. Citizens in GCC countries constitute 52 percent of the total population.
The massive number of expatriates living here suggest that Kuwait is not as bad as this poll would suggest. Otherwise how to explain the 3.2 million foreigners that choose to call Kuwait home?
There are expatriates who have been living in Kuwait for more than 30 years. If Kuwait is the worst country, how come they stayed this long and didn’t leave for any other country? As for job security, the government is reviewing the policies of employment and replacing non-useful expatriates with nationals. They are doing this to protect good, hardworking expats from residency traders. The jobs of some expatriate employees like doctors and teachers are safe.
The second reason is that the number of Kuwaitis expected to graduate from university during the next five years is about 30,000. They need jobs, and the government is required to implement a policy for hiring them. Therefore, targeting non-productive expatriates in government jobs is a normal procedure. According to the study, Kuwait pays the highest salaries for some positions, such as general managers of hotels, with average monthly salaries higher than in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
I don’t deny that there are redundant laborers roaming the streets who came via evil residency merchants that we hear about. I also believe that expatriate labor is one of the reasons for the prosperity of citizens, and the decline in their number can cause some problems due to the refusal of Kuwaiti to do some jobs.
One of the benefits of moving to work in GCC countries like Kuwait is the lack of income tax and the strength of the economy because of the currency rate. If some expatriates seem unhappy with their income, this is because their incomes are not enough to cover their daily expenses. This applies to both citizens and expatriates. Political stability is also found in all Gulf states, which is not available in many countries of the world.
Recruitment companies that participated in the survey continue to focus on the Gulf region as an attractive place for work. So the Gulf is still a good area for expatriates despite what the study claims, and in my view that is a contradiction worth considering.
By Muna Al-Fuzai