Complex Made Simple

The future for expats in Kuwait just got bleaker: 3100 laid off

Nationalization schemes continue to sweep the GCC in a flurry of new pieces of legislation and official decisions.

Kuwait and its aptly-named Kuwaitization plan have resulted in a new development: The cancellation of work contracts of around 3000 expats employed in the public sector.

The public sector welcomes nationals

Work contracts for 3,140 non-Kuwaitis serving in the public sector have been canceled, said Ahmad Al- Jassar, Chairman of the Civil Services Commission (CSC) on Saturday, the Arab Times reported Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) saying.

“These contracts have been invalidated according to the CSC resolution with respect of the personnel proportions stipulated for the 2017-2018 period, as part of the State policy of replacing expatriates with nationals in the government sector.”

The dismissed personnel served in various ministries, government departments and bodies of independent budgets, he said in a statement to KUNA. Al-Jassar has affirmed that these workers have been laid off in line with the State policy of “Kuwaitizing” jobs in the sector, as stipulated by the CSC decision 11/2017, which essentially exempted jobs in the medical and health sectors.

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The expat situation

Speaking to a Syrian expat working in the Kuwaiti medical sector, he told AMEinfo that “The government has the right to look out for the benefit of its citizens. Some might argue that putting 3000+ expats out of a job is unreasonable and could put them all in financial ruin, but there is always the private sector as well.”

When asked if he believes nationals will apply for these newly vacated positions, he said: “Believe it or not, a lot of nationals are unemployed. To what extent are they qualified to take on said-jobs is beyond my knowledge. However, it would be advantageous for the Kuwaiti citizens to have job vacancies in the public sector due to their decent pay and benefits.”

His opinion is reflected in the statistical figures: 252,800 Kuwaitis were employed in the public sector at the start of 2017, according to data by the Central Statistical Bureau (CSB). That is 74% of all public sector jobs.

When asked what the current expat situation in Kuwait is like, he said, “To be honest, not so good. I was born and raised in Kuwait and I face as many difficulties (if not more) as a fresh expat just entering the country. Whether it’s renewing my residency, getting a driver’s license, or anything in between, it becomes a tiring and costly chore that you’re mandated into.”

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Do nationalization schemes work?

The latest move by the CSC as part of Kuwaitization is nothing new. Saudi, as part of their Saudization scheme, let go thousands upon thousands of expats in all sectors of the industry, whether private or public. To top it off, they have implemented rising expat fees on businesses and expats themselves, all in an effort to decrease the country’s 12.9% unemployment rate (Q1 2018 figure).

However, news outlets have revealed that many of the jobs that have been vacated in the private sector are still unoccupied, as nationals pass them up for better-paying public sector jobs.

Perhaps Kuwait’s initiative to vacate public sector jobs was a well-informed one, in this case. Public sector jobs were already dominated by a higher concentration of nationals. Clearing up more positions for nationals that seem to prefer the public sector could indeed boost employment rates among Kuwaitis.

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Expats in public sector jobs

As it currently stands, and according to CSC figures, the number of non-Kuwaiti civil servants amounts to 44,572, including the 3140 that was just laid off. These serve in 46 government sectors, including 25,948 in teaching and training, 6,474 in services, 3,537 in law and Islamic affairs, 2,876 in engineering and 1,539 in social and educational services as well as sports.

Moreover, 1,221 perform financial, economic and commercial jobs, 1,130 in the sector of administrative back-up, 483 in information systems and technology, 377 in manual works, 308 in literature, media and public relations, 221 in forensics, 205 in agriculture and livestock, 212 in sciences, 37 in administrative development and statistics and five in marine tasks.

READ: Why is the retail sector central to Saudization plans?