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Expat deportation to bear negative impact on Kuwait Labour Market

The announcement of the government plan to deport 100,000 expat labourers annually has had a negative impact on Kuwait labour market, with the cost of recruitment having gone up, and visa trafficking having increased, a top unionist said, in his recent statement.


The Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, Thekra Al-Rashidi, in March last year, had announced a plan aimed at restoring the demographic balance in Kuwait. Kuwait is currently home to 2.6mn expatriates who constitute nearly two-third of the total population of 3.8mn in the State.


The announcement had generated widespread criticism focusing mostly on the plan being described as ‘impractical’ and ‘inhuman’ by rights groups. Recently, a senior official at the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF) indicated that private companies increased costs when workers’ daily wages grew from KD8 to KD15, following announcement of the plan.


The President of Expat Labour Forces in the KTUF, Abdurrahman Al-Ghanim, said that the state aims to build mega projects that require thousands of technical labour forces, which is an important asset, which will be in short supply, if the government go ahead with its annual deportation plan.


As per the plan, the government plans to deport one million expatriates in ten years. Although more details are yet to be revealed, Al-Rashidi said that the individuals targeted will be mainly ‘marginal labour force’, who often live without valid visas.


Al-Ghanim said that cancelling the sponsorship system is the only solution for the demographic imbalance problem in the country, besides stopping visa trafficking.


He said that the Ministry has no legal right to cancel contracts signed between employers and workers.


The sponsorship or ‘kafala’ system contains loopholes that are often exploited by visa traffickers for obtaining work permits, and has therefore been a subject of debate for long time now in Kuwait and in the entire region.


Meanwhile, the Directors of Labour departments have expressed their disapproval about reduction mechanism of workers. The officials are of the opinion that Kuwait needs workers that plan targets to ensure that the country can implement construction projects effectively. Kuwaitis do not accept technical and construction jobs that these workers perform, they pointed out.


The proposed strategy involves suspending work visas, suspending transfer of article 20 visas issued to domestic workers to article 18 visas, which is issued to private sector labour forces. In the opinion of the Directors, such measures contradict the state’s development plan, which needs at least two million expat labour forces of different specialities to finish planning and infrastructure works, the sources said.


They suggested that instead, the actual strategy should be to focus on visa traffickers by introducing tougher penalties and more effective prosecution steps.


Meanwhile, the Labour Public Authority, a proposed body to replace the sponsorship system, in handling expatriate labour recruiting duties will be announced in two months, and its executive regulations have been already finalized, he said.


Al-Jarida said that at least 1000 expatriates with article 18 and 20 visas were issued Smart Civil IDs in the first 48 hours since the Public Authority of Civil Information began releasing them last Sunday, as per estimates by a PACI.

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