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Latest figures released by the Labor Market Information System

KUWAIT: Nearly half of expatriates working in the private sector in Kuwait have only a middle school degree (49.5 percent), while the number of workers with a university degree reaches only 10.5 percent, according to official statistics.

Those figures, released recently by the Labor Market Information System of the Central Statistical Bureau, shed more light on the quality of foreign manpower in a country where expatriates made up 81.9 percent of the total labor market as of December 31, 2016. They are also important considering that they are released at a time in which debate on the negative impact of the demographic imbalance is perhaps at an all-time high in political and social arenas in Kuwait.

The private sector, which employs 59.9 percent of total manpower, remains heavily dependent on expatriate workers, who take up 95.5 percent of private jobs in Kuwait. Of those workers, 70.6 percent work in four economic activities: manufacturing industries (14.1 percent), construction (10.2 percent), wholesale and retail, trade, repair of vehicles and motorcycles (32 percent), and real estate activity (14.3 percent).

In addition to improving a worker's chances of finding a better, more financially rewarding job, having a university degree is also essential for many governmental transactions in Kuwait, such as applying for a driver's license (which also requires a minimum KD 600 monthly wage and two-year stay in the country), and having the ability to change employers freely.

Average salary

In the meantime, the statistics show that the average monthly salary of expatriates in Kuwait is KD 281, including only KD 259 in the private sector and KD 643 in the public sector. The average salary of a male expatriate private sector employee remains at a meager KD 251, which for instance is well below the aforementioned KD 600 minimum to apply for a driver's license, or the KD 400 minimum to sponsor a family in Kuwait.

The average salary of expatriates working in the public sector is generally better at KD 643, but remains humble compared to the KD 1,457 average for Kuwaiti public sector employees. In the meantime, the statistics show a narrower gap between the average salary of Kuwaitis in the public and private sectors, as a Kuwaiti in the private sector receives an average of KD 1,378. Still, the public sector remains more attractive for national manpower considering that it is more rewarding, less demanding (six daily working hours in average compared to eight in the private sector), and provides more in terms of benefits and job security.

Labor growth

According to the statistics, the number of expatriate workers in Kuwait grew by 6.8 percent as of the end of last year compared to a year before, whereas the number of Kuwaiti workers increased by only three percent during that period. The total number of Kuwaiti manpower dropped slightly to 18.1 percent from 18.6 percent by the end of 2015.

The total number of workers in Kuwait reached 1,965,381 as of December 31, 2016, of which only 354,806 are Kuwaitis while the rest (1,610,575) are citizens of many countries who call Kuwait home. This number does not include domestic helpers (also known as household employees) who totaled 673,099 by the end of last year. People from non-Arab Asian countries make up 50 percent of the total workforce, compared to 30.4 from Arab countries (excluding Kuwaitis). The Indian and Egyptian worker groups remain the two largest expatriate communities in Kuwait respectively, and the only two that are larger than the Kuwaiti manpower in the country.

By Ahmad Jabr