By Nawara Fattahova
Majeed Abdulsattar arrived in Kuwait when he was 11 years old in the early 1960s. He's spent almost his entire life in this country, working, building a family, making a home. Now at 62-year-old, the Iranian resident worries that this may be his last year here.
The Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) issued a decree last year halting the renewal of work visas (article 18) for residents in the private sector who are 60 years or old and who do not hold a university degree. "I've spent my whole life here and can't imagine leaving now. Kuwait is my home and I hope the authorities will change this decision soon," Abdulsattar told Kuwait Times.
Abdulsattar is just one of around 56,000 people who will be forced to leave the country due to their age. Some of them may be able to transfer their visas to article 21 (dependent) if their children are living and working here. But many may be stuck with no other option and will be forced to leave their jobs and their life in Kuwait.
When Abdulsattar heard of this decision, he was saddened. His wife and six children live in his village in Iran and he is their sole supporter. He has a daughter in Kuwait, who is married and a housewife. After spending over 50 years in Kuwait, it's very hard for him to build a new life back home, and it's impossible to find a job in this late age.
Abdulsattar works as a driver in a private company, earning KD 230 a month. He describes the situation there as very hard, with even his married daughters depending on his support. When he renewed his residency last July, his employer told him he won't be able to renew his residency next year due to the new PAM regulations.
There are many other similar cases.
Sundus, 60, has resided in Kuwait for more than 40 years with her husband, who is 63. They don't have children, and they both sell vegetables from a small stall in Souq Mubarakiya. In a very depressing video on a TV channel, she said that she hopes to get sick along with her husband and die and be buried in Kuwait, rather than being forced to leave the country, as she and her husband have nobody in their home country of Iraq.
From the business owners' point of view, they are forced to release their employees who have reached the age of 60. And now in the present situation of the pandemic and the closure of the country, no new employees are allowed to enter, and many employers face problems with hiring skilled staff.
Since PAM issued this decision last year, it has been criticized many times, not only in the media, but by businesses and even members of parliament. Many different statements have been made by PAM officials that amendments may come soon to provide a solution or cancel the decision.
One of the suggested solutions is to pay KD 1,000 annually in health insurance for this category of employees. But this doesn't seem very realistic, as the majority of these employees work in low-paid jobs and won't be able to pay this amount annually. Also, their employers won't agree to pay this exorbitant amount in most cases.