Expat reduction ‘not possible’ within current working system –
 Expert sheds light on ‘realities’
KUWAIT: Earlier this month, the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, Thikra Al-Rashidi announced that the ministry will implement a strategy to decrease the number of expat employees in Kuwait by 100,000 annually in order to reach the target of reducing their numbers by one million within 10 years. After that announcement, Senyar Capital for financial advisory and research conducted a study on the issue and concluded that it was not possible to execute such a strategy within the current working system involving a sponsor (Kafeel).

According to economic expert and analyst Dr Hajjaj Bukhodor, the ministry’s plan would be impossible to apply even if it was well-intended. “The reality and the actual situation of the Kuwaiti labor market is not as the minister sees it. I think that if the ministry decided to execute this strategy within the present labor laws and regulations, the number of expat laborers will further increase, especially the marginal laborers,” he told the Kuwait Times yesterday. He gave many reasons for his opinion. “The current sponsor system is encouraging some people to practice the illegal visa trade, which is a reason behind the rising number of marginal laborers.

Different laws encourage importing manpower – especially the ‘Tenders Law’, due to which projects go to companies that offer the lowest bid, which is not necessary the best, because such companies usually use more marginal laborers,” explained Bukhodor. Work atmosphere is another reason. “The work environment is not ideal. There is favoritism in some cases, and lack of encouragement for high productivity in others. All of this leads to the use of more marginal workers. The wage system is also leading to an increase in the number of margin laborers, as they are paid for the hours of work they put in and not for their productivity, such as in the case of allowance for Kuwaitis working in the private sector,” he added.

The culture of the Kuwaiti society also plays a role. “People here depend on expats. In their house, they depend on maids and domestic workers for cleaning, maintenance, repairing and other chores. In other areas of life and work, too, they have to depend on expats. Also, some practices at the workplace encourage increasing the number of expat employees,” stressed Bukhodor. “For all these reasons, the proposal of the Minister of Social Affairs is a dream, which will be impossible to realize if the ministry doesn’t consider the things that I just mentioned and tries to solve it through action and not just words,” he further said.

Bukhodor had conducted and proposed a study about changing the sponsor system since more than 20 years ago. “My project was called the ‘laborers bank’, which suggested setting up an institution that would record the personal data of expat workers. So when an employer will need manpower for his project, he will use the laborers from this bank instead of demanding manpower from abroad. This project involves replacing the Kafeel system and eliminating visa trading.

It should also provide qualified manpower of good standards. This center should be also connected with different embassies outside Kuwait and with local authorities inside the country,” concluded Bukhodor.

By Nawara Fattahova, Kuwait Times Staff
-Kuwait Times