Time to diversify labor

Muna Al-Fuzai

Some people are arguing the increase in the number of expatriates is the cause of many problems in Kuwait, such as imbalance in the population, overcrowding on roads and rising unemployment among Kuwaitis. The list is long. I wonder if this is a problem, why doesn’t anyone offer a solution?

Why don’t we address this situation without harming or abusing the dignity and rights of expat workers in Kuwait regardless of their nationality and accusing them of being the reason of corruption and imbalance in the country? In this article, I have a proposal for this subject that I hope is considered!

I think the demographic issue needs to be reconsidered and amended so that citizens and expats have greater options. One way is by allowing Palestinians back into Kuwait, for example, especially young people such as doctors and engineers, while facilitating the entry of Sudanese and Yemenis, for instance, and others. The influx of youth will result in diversity in Arab nationalities and infuse new blood, especially in the medical and industrial sectors.

I recall former minister of social affairs and labor Hind Al-Sabeeh saying in a press statement in 2018 about her wish to bring skilled Sudanese to Kuwait’s labor market. Any update on that? That’s one wish of mine. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 left a great void that used to be filled by Palestinian brothers, especially in the medical and educational sectors. With the exit of this large number of workers from Kuwait, it was evident that Kuwait needed to fill their spots, whether in the government or private sector, and naturally the state tried to replace the Palestinians with various Arab, Asian and foreign nationals.

I believe that when debating the issue of imbalance in the population structure in Kuwait, we must consider that it is wrong to rely on one human element, whether Arab or Asian. Kuwaitis are about 30 percent of the population compared to 70 percent of expatriates. This large number of expatriates compared to citizens is normal in most Gulf countries, but the solution should not be at the expense of expatriate workers, whether Arab or others, because all expats came based on an agreement with an employer.

We know all about the government’s statements about the so-called replacement plan with citizens, but this has a direct relationship with the issue of unemployment and is not a solution to modify the imbalance in population or improve the situation without any harm to the rights of employees.

I believe that adjustment in demographics needs amendment of laws that regulate the relationship between the worker and the employer. The problem is not in the text but in people and actual implementation, which leads to instability in the relationship between the two parties. Sometimes the reasons are due to the employer, who does not fulfill his obligations towards his employees, which results in many complaints submitted to the Public Authority for Manpower.

We need a strict legal and legislative system that regulates the labor market and work contracts between the parties in all fields concerning non-technical and non-specialized employment, which does not benefit the country, and bring in specialized technical labor that can help the country without political considerations over a certain nationality. It is time to change and diversify labor.

By Muna Al-Fuzai