Kuwait National Assembly has passed a bill to reduce the number of foreign workers in Kuwait, reported BBC yesterday (16 Jul). It has been cleared by the legal and legislative committee of the Kuwait National Assembly and is now awaiting the government’s approval to become law.
The law, said to be triggered by rising demand for jobs among locals, would impose quotas on foreigners working and living in Kuwait. Foreign expats currently form 70% of Kuwait’s population of 4 over million. The bill aims to bring that number down to 30%.
Kuwait Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah said the high number of foreign workers was a “big imbalance”, adding that “we have a future challenge to address this imbalance”.
Indian nationals, who form the largest expat community, are likely to be the worst hit. It has been estimated that as many as 800,000 Indians could be forced to leave Kuwait, as the bill also sets the number of Indians to 15 percent or less of the total number of Kuwaitis in the country. Other nationalities like Egyptians, Filipinos and Sri Lankans will be set to 10 percent while the quota for Bangladeshis, Nepalese, Pakistanis and Vietnamese is fixed at 3 percent.
Surprised by the move, the Indian government said it has already initiated discussions with Kuwait about the bill. An Indian foreign ministry’s spokesperson said, “The Indian community is well-regarded in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf region and their contributions are well recognised. We have shared our expectations and Kuwait’s decision will take that into account.”
Kuwait is one of the top sources of foreign remittances for India. In 2017, Indian nationals sent back nearly US$4.6 billion to India, according to Pew Research Centre data.
However, some felt that the bill may not become law. Dr A K Pasha, professor at the Centre for West Asian Studies at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, told BBC, “Without expatriates, they will not be able to sustain the kind of life the locals have been leading because many of the works which expats do, the locals are unwilling or reluctant to do.”
“It is practically impossible to work with just 200,000 Indians here and send 800,000 home,” echoed Kaizar Shakir, a chartered accountant who works with an architectural engineering firm in Kuwait. “I don’t think this bill will be implemented. The Kuwait government is very sensitive about Indians and will not ask them to leave.”
Still, others believe that the Kuwaiti government is under pressure amid rising unemployment. “If [Kuwaiti graduates] can’t find work here, then where else?” one foreign expat asked. “They only want white-collar jobs. You’ll mostly never find a Kuwaiti working as a technician. I am working in finance. My job is more at risk.”
Chan wants to continue getting foreign expats to work in Singapore
Meanwhile in Singapore, the assistant secretary-general of Progress Singapore Party (PSP), Mr Leong Mun Wai told media that his party would advocate reducing the number of foreign PMETs in Singapore (‘PSP Leong wants to reduce FT number while PAP Chan wants to continue bringing them in‘).
“There are 400,000 foreign talents in Singapore now (taking up PMET jobs). Among these, I think you can cut down about 10 percent of them,” he said.
“Basically the Singapore government is saying that without Employment Pass (EP), the overall competitiveness will be affected. But we don’t agree. We think a portion of EP and S Pass (SP) can be reduced. For instance, if you reduce 10 percent of these EP and SP, then tens of thousands of job opportunities can be freed up,” he added.
“On this, once we enter the parliament, we will proactively push our cases to the Government.”
But Minister Chan Chun Sing thought otherwise. At a national broadcast by Chan last month (14 Jun), he continued to talk about bringing in “foreign talents” into Singapore.
“We will also intensify the efforts to attract the best ideas and (foreign) talent to compete on our side, and complement our strengths,” he said.
“Initiatives like the Global Innovation Alliance connect us with talent hubs across the world. We will make ourselves a more attractive safe harbour for talent, ideas and intellectual property, to grow more businesses and create better jobs. Competition is intense. Talented people, including our own, can go anywhere.”
He also tried to assure Singaporeans with regard to job competitions from foreigners. He said, “I know many Singaporeans are concerned with foreign competition, but closing ourselves up is not the answer. We cannot escape competing with the world, and proving our mettle.”
“We will give our workers the training and support to excel, and we will ensure that the competition is fair,” he assured.