Kuwait approves foreign worker quota bill

The move could mean tens of thousands of people will have to leave the country

Kuwaiti MPs, wearing protective masks, arrive to a parliament session at the national assembly in Kuwait City, on June 16, 2020. / AFP / YASSER AL-ZAYYAT
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Kuwait’s National Assembly committee has approved a draft law proposing a quota for the number of foreign workers that live in the country, designed to change the country's demographic ratio in favour of Kuwaitis.

The bill states that the Indian expatriate community – one of the largest in the country – should not exceed 15 per cent of the national population, which means about 800,000 of them could be required to leave the country.

Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Sabah said last month that the country would like the number of foreign workers to drop from 70 per cent of the population to 30 per cent. This would mean a cut of about 2.5 million expat workers.

Foreigners account for nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait’s 4.8 million people, and that’s a “big imbalance, and we have a future challenge to redress this imbalance,” Sheikh Sabah told the top editors of local newspapers.

The bill will now be referred to the concerned committee for consideration

In June, state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries said the employment of foreign workers would be banned for the year 2020-21. There are similar plans for government and civil service jobs.

Last year, MP Safa Al Hashem said it was essential to have Kuwaitis number more than 50 per cent of the country’s population.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for later this year, and anti-foreign worker rhetoric is attractive to some voters, especially when it concerns well-paid government jobs. At the end of 2019, only 19 per cent of the Kuwaiti workforce was in the private sector.

Foreigners have also accounted for the majority of Kuwait’s coronavirus cases as the disease spread among migrant workers living in overcrowded labour camps.