The government of Kuwait is all set to introduce new measures that would put a freeze on issuance of new work permits and reduce the number of expatriates in the country to only 1 million in 10 years.
Revealing the government’s plans, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al-Rasheedi said that, “it’s part of the ministry’s efforts to regulate the labor market, curb the phenomenon of marginal labor and restore the demographic equilibrium of the country.” The number of expatriates will be reduced by 100,000 each year, and will be reduced to only 1 million by 2023. Currently, foreign workers comprise about two-thirds of the country’s population.
Although new work visas would not be issued from April 1, there is still no clarity on whether existing visas would be renewed upon expiry. As a result of the restriction, companies would be forced to hire only Kuwaiti nationals. Latest statistics show that there are fewer than 1 million Kuwaitis of working age. The government has also established an inspection team to ensure that employers comply with the new regulations.
In recent months, Kuwait has proposed aggressive laws that target expats and have drawn widespread criticism from different circles. A recently proposed law in Kuwait would allow expats to access medical care only in the afternoon unless it is an emergency. There have also been calls to withdraw subsidies on services such as water, electricity and gas for expats. If put into effect, the measure will increase monthly bills beyond the average salary and make living unaffordable.
A recent global travel and tourism competitiveness survey by the World Economic Forum ranks Kuwait at 137 out of 140 countries for friendliness. Due to various government laws and attitude of locals towards visitors, there has been a dramatic decline in the country’s ranking, making it one of the world’s least friendly countries towards tourists.