Last month, the Kuwaiti Legal Advice and Legislation Department invalidated the ban on employing expatriates above 60, saying it had no legal basis. Image Credit: Yasmena Al Mulla

Cairo: Mandatory health insurance for migrant workers above 60 to renew their work permits in Kuwait will cost nearly KD500, half of an initial estimate, a Kuwaiti newspaper has reported.

The insurance is part of a new system approved last week, replacing a disputed ban on renewal of work permits for expatriates in Kuwait above 60, who hold no university.

The new rules levy on those expatriates an annual fee of KD500 and health insurance costing from KD1,000 to 1,200 each, according to initial estimates.

However, Al Anba newspaper, citing “well-informed” sources, said the insurance fee will cost nearly KD500 and that six companies listed on the Kuwait stock exchange will be tasked with providing the service.

Currently, the Kuwaiti Health Ministry charges all expatriates in the country KD50 each in an annual health insurance fee. Discussion is under way about whether the ministry will continue to levy the KD50 on expatriates above 60 or it will make do with the KD500, the paper said. There was no immediate official comment.

Last month, the Kuwaiti Legal Advice and Legislation Department invalidated the ban on employing expatriates above 60, saying it had no legal basis.

The department, a Cabinet affiliate, said that the ban had been issued by the Public Authority of Manpower (PAM) director-general without authorisation. The PAM board met Thursday under chairmanship of Minister of Trade and Industry Abdullah Al Salman and approved revocation of the ban.

The board also endorsed a new decree allowing renewal of work permits for expatriates above 60 in return for an annual fee of KD500 and mandatory health insurance.

Children of those expatriates will not be allowed to enroll in public schools.

Exempted categories

Some categories of people will be exempted from paying the renewal fees, according to the official. They are children of Kuwaiti women and their husbands, holders of the Palestinian nationality, and those born in Kuwait.

Around 4,013 such expatriates have been forced out of the work market in Kuwait in the first six months of enforcing the ban, Al Qabas newspaper reported recently.

The ban, which went into effect earlier this year, triggered an outcry among rights activists, who argued that it affects thousands of expatriates and their families who long lived in Kuwait.

Critics also said the restriction has also caused damage to many employers and destabilised the labour market, robbing it of experienced workers. The ban was seen as an attempt to reduce numbers of migrant workers who account for majority of Kuwait’s population.

In July, the PAM issued another decision allowing expatriates above the age of 60 to renew their residency permits in return for paying annual fees of KD2,000.

This move also sparked an outcry and unleashed a campaign by activists demanding cancellation of the restrictions.

Foreigners make up nearly 3.4 million of the country’s total population of 4.6 million.