Kuwait is starting with its process of "kuwaitization" as it begins deporting foreign workers in the public sector.
Rabat – Officials in Kuwait have started the process of “kuwaitization” by starting to reduce the number of foreign workers employed in the public sector. Kuwaiti politicians have for years expressed their desire to reduce Kuwait’s reliance on its foreign workforce, accounting for 70% of the country’s population of 4.5 million.
Public sector jobs
The Kuwaiti government aims to reduce the number of foreign workers employed in the public sector after passing legislation in July capping immigration numbers and instituting quotas for workers from specific countries. Kuwait now aims to terminate half of all foreign workers employed in government ministries.
The process has been underway for months as ministries have moved foreign employees from the ministries to work for sub-contractors. Those employees can now be terminated gradually, while “not affecting the workflow,” as Kuwaiti officials continue to stress.
“The process of terminating expats working in the governmental agencies will happen gradually,” a government official told Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai. “We will be notifying them to ensure that the work is not affected.”
The large round of lay-offs in the public sector is part of a process of “kuwaitization,” which began in 2018 and aims to “address the issue in the demographic imbalance,” according to remarks from MP Khalil Al-Saleh.
While anti-immigration sentiments in Kuwait have grown in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in growing resentment against the large population of foreign workers that are employed in nearly every sector of the economy.
Kuwait’s relatively small native population has meant foreign workers have been an integral part of the country’s development, but economic difficulties and scapegoating have led to increased xenophobia by local Kuwaitis.
Kuwaiti Parliamentarian Safaa al-Hashem has called for the government to “purify the country” in Al Qabas, a Kuwait-city based newspaper, while popular Kuwaiti actress Hayat al-Fahad has said that immigrants who tested positive for COVID-19 should be “put in the desert” in order to save hospital beds for native Kuwaitis.
While Kuwaiti politicians appear to be responding to this rising xenophobia by implementing tough measures aimed to reduce the number of foreign workers, few have been able to explain how Kuwait aims to continue to grow its economy while drastically reducing its population size.
Examples of shrinking populations can be seen in Western Europe and Japan, but realizing the automation required to cope with a shrinking workforce would ironically require much foreign expertise and foreign labor.