By Majd Othman
KUWAIT: The topic of amending the demographics of Kuwait through reducing the number of expats has been a long-time issue that turned into a popular demand for some citizens in Kuwait, while others look at it as an economic opportunity that will contribute to boosting the economic growth of the country. There have also been many demands in the past years calling to take advantage of financially-secure expats, similar to other GCC countries that have been giving facilities and advantages to their expat residents instead of giving up on them.
Meanwhile, the numbers of domestic workers have increased in the past few years to reach 49 percent of the total population of citizens in Kuwait, which has started to become a real issue for the government, Economist Mohammad Ramadan told Kuwait Times. He pointed out the numbers of domestic workers in Kuwait reached 723,000, equivalent to 49 percent of the total number of citizens, 23 percent of expats and 16 percent of the total population of Kuwait.
"People talk a lot about the percentage of Kuwaitis and their desire to adjust the percentage of expats in Kuwait. But we see a Kuwaiti family of four having two housemaids, who do not have bank accounts, do not pay rent and transfer most of their monthly income to their countries, in addition to the increasing consumption of electricity and resources," Ramadan said. "Therefore, these categories of expats do not contribute effectively to the increase in Kuwait's GDP, and the economic benefit of their existence is almost non-existent."
Ramadan suggested these domestic workers should be replaced by temporary workers, who will work for specific hours inside the house and leave. Thus, these workers will live in rented accommodations and have bank accounts, resulting in economic activity. On the other hand, Ramadan pointed out the issue of taking advantage of financially-viable expats in Kuwait. "The problem is that the government does not manage the demographics issue well. While citizens blame expats when they cannot receive the services they want well, the government is responsible for the poor access of citizens to services," he argued.
"If we see GCC governments and how much they spend on investing in their expats, we will see the great economic growth they have achieved," Ramadan said. He stressed economic growth comes from expats and not citizens, with the importance of attracting Arab expats and capital during periods of political upheavals witnessed by some Arab countries, which would be a great opportunity for economic growth in the country.
"UAE and Bahrain give residents who have investments in their countries or receive a specific income long-term residency to attract them, in addition to Saudi Arabia, which seeks to increase its expatriate numbers by 50 percent from the current 38 percent," he said. "Therefore, an expat who receives a high income and has long-term residence should be our target, who can realize great economic activity in the country."
But Ramadan said he does not expect the government to attract expats during the coming period, considering that citizens in the country do not have sufficient awareness of the importance of expats in the country, in addition to the problem of visa traffickers that the government can quickly end if it wants to, by giving company owners enough space to hire enough numbers of employees instead of looking for them in the black market.