Register for our free newsletter

Latest News

(Ku)wait and see: cutting down number of expats

Kuwait looking to cut expatriate population

If you're an expatriate in Kuwait, you might soon be packing. . .

March 21, 2013 12:51 by

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently described Kuwait as one of the world’s least-friendly countries. In its Tourism and Travel Competitiveness Report 2013, the Gulf state earned the fourth position on that list because of its measurable ‘population attitude towards visitors and tourists’. As if to prove WEF’s point, Kuwait has now announced that it plans to slash its expatriate population by 1 million – 100,000 each year – for the next decade or two.

Expatriates make up approximately two-thirds of Kuwait’s population (68%) and Labour Minister Thekra Al-Rasheedi said these cut backs are part of a nationwide initiative to ‘eliminate the phenomenon of a marginal workforce’ and restore the demographic equilibrium of the country. Currently, the state has about 600,000 domestic workers and slightly less than one million Kuwaitis of working age.

If it all goes according to plan, the expatriate population of Kuwait will be cut from its current three million (approximate) to one million by 2023. From April 1st (no, I don’t think it’s an April’s fool), Kuwait will cease to issue new work visas, but the fate of those already working in the country is still a mystery. Arabian Business reports that it’s still unclear whether existing visas will be renewed upon expiration.

There is no official term for this nationwide wipe-out yet, but it can only be what Kipp would describe as a much tougher version of “Kuwaitisation” – limiting companies to hiring only Kuwaiti nationals – with established inspection teams to ensure employers are compliant. This isn’t the state’s first move aimed at making alterations to its expatriate landscape; as it has recently proposed a law that only allows expats to access medical care in the afternoon unless it is an emergency.

Do you think Kuwait will benefit from this demographic reform and will other Gulf States take a leaf out of its book?

Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. chaz on March 21, 2013 2:41 pm

    Honestly, any country could impose this very easily.

    The difference is that if it was done in the west, it would be discriminatory and racist.

  2. M. Aldalou on March 21, 2013 2:51 pm

    Hey Chaz, yeah you’re right. But the point is, what do you think of the ruling – putting yourself in the shoes of an expatriate in Kuwait.

  3. mandarin on March 21, 2013 4:11 pm

    Having heard of the general work attitude of the nationals in that country and their sense of privilege!!!.. they have to progress leaps and bounds before even getting to levels of work ethics which has become part of the culture in other GCC nations

  4. M. Aldalou on March 21, 2013 4:36 pm

    Thanks for your comment Mandarin, tell us more. What have you heard of the general work attitude?

  5. Sara on March 21, 2013 7:35 pm

    Good on them :) I’m sure Kuwaities are more than capable to do a great job.

  6. Acid test on March 23, 2013 12:30 pm

    I am all for it. This will either work or fail. If it works, other GCC countries could apply the same and if it fails, everybody will be able to avoid the same mistake.
    Kuwait situation is more like Qatar and far from the situation in the other GCC countries. Saudi is a different case, same for Oman or Bahrain. And in UAE, each Emirate has his particular situation due to level and origin of the income. If ABD could eventually afford a shay move like Kuwait, in Dubai it could be harder to implement due to Jafza and other international companies. And what about the impact on Sharjah if expats leave? no more tenants and sponsors income….. so each country different situation.
    Dubai will benefit again from the fleeing business community frim Kuwait

  7. M. Aldalou on March 24, 2013 9:08 am

    Sara, perhaps you’re right. It’s quite difficult to predict whether this will work or fail but as “Acid Test” said, only time will tell. And if it does fail, the other Gulf countries will learn from it. If it works beautifully, then we might all need to start packing too.

  8. SCEPTICAL SAM on March 24, 2013 8:32 pm

    I really look forward to seeing the Kuwaiti Nationals preparing for this transition to 100% work force of Kuwaiti’s. especially the manual tasks within the construction industry, facilities management and food services industry, just to name some industries that workers are all looked down upon across the globe (labourers, bin men and washer ups). It will also be good to see them looking after their own children without the help of nannies – oops sorry, they can have nannies so long as they are Kuwaiti’s. Best wishes to them


Leave a Comment