Kuwait vaccine
A man gets vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine (Covishield) by a staff of Kuwaiti Ministry of Health at Al Naseem vaccination centre, in Al Jahra governorate, 40 kms north of Kuwait City. Image Credit: AFP file

Cairo: More than 38,000 foreigners are being employed by Kuwait’s Health Ministry and their employment is crucial due to expansion in medical services in the country, according to a senior Kuwaiti official.

In recent years, Kuwait has stepped up efforts to create jobs for its citizens and replace foreign employees as part of policy dubbed “kuwaitisation”.

Kuwaiti Health Minister Ahmad Al Awwadi has put the current number of expatriate workers at the ministry at 38,549, mostly working in medical, technical and support specialties.

“There is a big need for them in view of expansions in hospiral buildings and an increase in medical services,” he was quoted by Almajilis news portal as saying.

Answering a parliamentary question, the minister said the Health Ministry over the past five years has implemented the “Kuwaitisation” plan based on timetables set by the country’s state employment agency, the Civil Service Commission, pertaining to numbers of non-Kuwaiti workers to be replaced with citizens.

Foreigners make up nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait’s overall population of 4.6 million.

In recent months, there have been increasing calls in Kuwait for curbing foreigners’ employment along accusations that migrant workers have strained the country’s infrastructure facilities amid economic repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers of new expatriates employed at Kuwait’s government agencies have dropped by 70 per cent in 2022 compared to the previous four years amid increasing employment of Kuwaitis, according to recent official figures.

Al Qabas newspaper last month cited figures from the Kuwaiti Central Administration of Statistics showing that the total expatriates who joined the government bodies in the country were 1,553 in the first half of 2022 against 7,000 each in the previous years except in epidemic-hit 2020 when only 200 foreigners were appointed.

Kuwaitis now account for 366,238 or around 80 per cent of the overall government workers in the country against 91,000 expatriates mostly doing service-orientated jobs in education and health care, the paper said.

Arab expatriates come first among non-Kuwaiti government workers, making up 51.8 per cent followed by Asians, it added.

Expatriates are mostly employed at the ministries of education, health, electricity Awqaf (religious endowments) and the interior.