Kuwait expats
In the fourth quarter of 2020, a recent report revealed that 83,574 expats left Kuwait permanently. Image Credit: File picture

Kuwait City: In the fourth quarter of 2020, a recent report revealed that 83,574 expats left Kuwait permanently, Al Qabas reported.

Currently, the number of expats working in the labour market have decreased to around 1.5 million.

In addition, of those 2,144 non-Kuwaiti employees working the public sector have had their contracts terminated. The two governmental agencies that saw the highest number of layoffs are the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, followed by Kuwait Airways, bakeries and public transport.

As for domestic workers, in the last three months, as around 7,385 left the country.

A month ago, official figures published by Al Rai, estimated that there were around 3.3 million expats residing in Kuwait prior to the pandemic, that number dropped to 2.65 million in recent months.

The decrease in the number of expats is due to several reasons from the crackdown on illegal permit holders to many losing their jobs due to repercussions of the lockdown and travel bans.

Labour market

Majority of expats in Kuwait work in low-skilled and low-wage paying jobs, as demand is high given that the majority of Kuwaitis prefer the comfort of public sector jobs.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the labour market in Kuwait has been severely impacted by different factors. One is the crackdown on illegal permits holders. It was estimated that before the pandemic there were around 100,000 expats residing in Kuwait without a residency.

Then in April, the Ministry of Interior initiated an amnesty programme that allowed non-permit holders to leave the country with no penalty. The government also paid for their tickets.

Between April and June, 26,000 non-permit holders left Kuwait as a result of the amnesty programme.

Another factor is the economic effect of the pandemic which led to many businesses and companies laying off workers to cut expenses. Several accounts have been recorded of expats stating that their salaries have been unpaid for months.

Expats stuck abroad

There are around 365,000 expats stranded abroad due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, of which 147,000 residency permits have expired.

Kuwait closed its airport and borders twice during the pandemic. The first time was from March 13 to August 1. Then given the concern over the new COVID strain, Kuwait halted all air, land and sea travel to and from Kuwait from December 21 to January 1.

Although the airport reopened, passengers arriving from 35 countries are still banned from entering Kuwait without quarantining in a non-banned country for 14 days first. Of the 35 listed on the travel ban list, are India, Philippines, Nepal and Sri Lanka, home countries to the majority of expats residing in Kuwait.