Kuwait plans to cut expat numbers by 1 million

Gulf state set to introduce new measures including freeze on issuing new work permits
Kuwait plans to cut expat numbers by 1 million
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)
By Courtney Trenwith
Wed 20 Mar 2013 05:29 PM

Kuwait is introducing measures, including a freeze on issuing new work permits, to cut the number of expatriates in the country by more than 1 million, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al-Rasheedi said.

Foreign workers make up about two-thirds of the country’s population, estimated to be about 3 million.

But Rasheedi said the government was working to reduce the number of expats to only 1 million by 2023. About 100,000 would be culled each year, she said.

“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,” she said in a statement to the Kuwait news agency KUNA.

New work visas would not be issued from April 1, while it was not clear whether existing visas would be renewed when they expired.

The measure will limit companies to hiring only Kuwaiti nationals. There are fewer than 1 million Kuwaitis of working age.

Rasheedi said an inspection team had been established to ensure employers complied with the new regulations.

There has been a recent surge in proposed new laws targeted at expats, including only allowing them to access medical care in the afternoon unless it is an emergency.

Lawmakers also have called for large subsidies for services such as water, electricity and gas to be scrapped for expats, which could push up monthly bills beyond the average salary.

Kuwait was named as one of the world's least friendly countries towards tourists in a global travel and tourism competitiveness survey by the World Economic Forum released this week.

It was ranked 137 out of 140 countries for friendliness.

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