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More than 2.4 million expats live in Kuwait

Around 620,000 foreigners are employed as domestic helpers

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait is home to 2,433,559 foreign residents, the latest official figures indicate.

The number of male expatriates is 1,612,699 while 820,550 are women, the General Department for Residency Affairs said.

According to the figures detailing the categories, 1,192,105 foreigners are working in the private sector while 99,940 are employed by the government. The number of domestic helpers is 619,895, making it one of the highest in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the loose alliance that comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The number of foreigners who are on family visas are 518,377, and the number of foreign students is 655, the statistics show, local daily Al Anba reported on Monday.

Foreigners, mainly unskilled Asian labourers in the construction sector and domestic helpers, make up two-thirds of the total population and the Asian community alone outnumbers Kuwaitis.

Several Kuwaiti lawmakers said that they were alarmed by the demographic imbalance and pressed for ways to address it and to reduce the country’s reliance on foreigners.

Last month, a bill calling for the imposition of a five-year residency cap on foreigners in Kuwait and a ban on bringing their families into the country was cleared by the parliament’s legal and legislative committee.

The bill, submitted by MP Abdullah Al Tamimi, also limits the size of any expatriate community to less than 10 per cent of the Kuwaiti population. Under the proposal, no community should be larger than 125,000 people.

The Indian community, the largest in the northern Arabian Gulf country, with more than 670,000 members and the Egyptian community, the largest among Arabs with around 520,000 people, would be dramatically affected and thousands of foreigners would have to leave the country under the proposal.

The Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Filipino and Syrian communities would also see their numbers slashed.

The bill applies to unskilled and semi-skilled expatriates who make up the largest segment of the communities in Kuwait.

Highly qualified and skilled expatriates are not included in the proposal promoted by Al Tamimi as seeking to address the alarming demographic issue in Kuwait.

The committee also reportedly called for removing the six-month period accorded to expatriates who leave the country before their residency visa is cancelled.

Under the bill, foreigners will also be banned from brining their families into the country.

GCC, European Union and US citizens as well as consultants and doctors will be exempted from this provision, the committee said.

The legal and legislative committee assesses whether the bill is in line with the constitution and laws of the country.

It is referred to the interior and defence committee as the next step in the long process to come into force.

If it is passed by the parliamentary panel, it is taken up by lawmakers who debate its merits at the parliament. If it is endorsed, it is referred to the government.

Government officials said that there was no intention to reduce the expatriate population.

In February, MP Khalil Abdullah called for the deportation of 280,000 expatriates per year for the next five years to help address the imbalanced demographic in the country.

“There is a critical need to find solutions for the demographic situation in Kuwait,” he said.

“We need to have a Kuwaiti population that is at least equal to the number of foreigners who live in the country. Since we have 2.5 million expatriates, we need to bring the number down to 1.1 million in the next five years, which means we need to reduce their numbers by 280,000 every year,” he said.

However, he said that expatriates “with laudable contributions to the prosperity of the nation and with commendable experience to serve the country and the citizens” should not be included in the mass-deportation plan.

Last year, pushing for an exhaustive reform of the labour market, Dhikra Al Rashidi, the then minister of social affairs and labour pledged to spearhead a campaign to limit the number of unskilled foreigners amid reports that one million will be deported over the next 10 years with an average of 100,000 a year.

The business community has been vigourously resisting all deportation calls, warning that any move to slash the numbers of expatriates dramatically could result in grave economic issues in the country.

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