MPs call on government to cut expat numbers by 50%

Expats blamed for poor services, traffic jams – Govt dithers on increased annual leave

KUWAIT: A number of lawmakers yesterday called on the government to adopt serious measures to drastically reduce the number of expatriates and stop what they called “their onslaught on public services”. MP Khalil Al-Saleh, who heads a parliamentary committee to speed up the process of finding jobs for nationals, called on the government to implement a proposal stipulating deporting half of the 3.3 million expatriates over the next five years.

Saleh said that the higher committee for demographic structure must play a more effective role in reducing the number of expatriates, adding that his committee has not seen a clear policy on this issue, especially in replacing expatriates with nationals in public and private jobs. He stressed that the government must adopt serious measures to “save the country from the (expatriate) typhoon that has taken up services and jobs”.

The lawmaker said the government is required to apply its plan on the demographic structure, which the former social affairs and labor minister said was with the economic committee at the council of ministers. “We have to work with the plan immediately so as to reduce the number of expatriates by 50 percent over the next five years, especially since a majority of them are marginal laborers,” Saleh said.
MP Khaled Al-Otaibi blamed the large number of expatriates for the deterioration of daily life in the country because of their “rush for public services after their numbers multiplied, and they currently form more than two-thirds of the population, which is an extremely dangerous development”. “What encourages expatriates to stay in Kuwait and not leave under any circumstances is what they get here and can’t find in their home countries,” Otaibi said.

The lawmaker called for reforming the demographic structure immediately, adding that “it’s time to reduce the number of marginal laborers that have overwhelmed the country and are competing with citizens for public services, and are the cause for the traffic menace”. Otaibi said Kuwait should recruit only highly qualified foreign workers, especially in the health and education sectors, while ensuring that no single community controls any profession.

MP Adel Al-Damkhi, the head of the Assembly’s human rights committee, said the first step to tackle the demographic imbalance is to fight against trafficking in persons, especially since there is a law for this but it is not implemented. He said the law must be activated to penalize influential people who recruit laborers for money, adding this is like money laundering. He said the first step to reform the demographic imbalance is to fight influential people who traffic in people and then apply laws to stop the sharp increase in the number of expatriates.

Damkhi called for applying the quota system and percentages for various expatriate communities so that no single community dominates the rest, adding that only highly skilled workers should be recruited. He criticized the government for not presenting its plan on measures to stop the influx of expatriates into the country.

Meanwhile, head of the Assembly’s health and labor committee MP Humoud Al-Khudhair called on the government not to change its mind on a key amendment to the labor law, in which annual leave was increased to 35 days from the current 30. The amendment was passed overwhelmingly by the Assembly last week in the first round and the Assembly is expected to have the second and final round of voting next week in order for it to become law. The government had accepted the amendment which applies to expatriates and Kuwaitis working in the private sector.

By B Izzak

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