Context: The Kuwait National Assembly (NA) is discussing several proposals to reduce the share of foreigners in the country’s population, which is now pegged at 70%. 

More on the news: 

  • There are many proposals under consideration, and one is to put caps on the number of emigrants in the country
  • In this, the plan is that Indians should not exceed 15% of Kuwaiti citizens, while Egyptians, Bangladeshis and Filipinos among others must not each exceed 10% of Kuwaitis.

Reasons for this proposal coming up in the middle of a pandemic:

  • Kuwaitis are a minority in Kuwait: Of the total population of 4.3 million, Kuwaitis are 1.3 million, which is less than one third. According to one account, there are more Indians than Kuwaitis in Kuwait - 1.45 million. 
    • If Indians cannot exceed 15% of Kuwaitis, the cap would be around two lakh. 
  • Lack of population data: In Gulf Countries citizens are a minority which has been a lingering concern in all GCC countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 
    • COVID-19 exposed the huge concentration of certain populations among the expatriates, and the resulting imbalances.
  • High unemployment among the natives: Economic crisis and demographic imbalance had triggered movement for nationalisation of the workforce. 
  • Arab Spring: It added a new concern of political stability among the regimes. 

Profile of the Indian community in Kuwait:

  • According to the Indian Embassy in Kuwait, besides the million-plus who are in the country as legal workforce, there are about 10,000 Indian nationals who have overstayed their visas. 
  • Growth of Indian community in Kuwait: It has been growing at 5-6% per annum until recently, but the COVID-19 pandemic put an abrupt stop to immigration to the country. Indians are the largest expatriate community and Egyptians are the second largest.
  • Male-female ratio: About three fourths, or about 7.5 lakh Indians are males as against only 2.5 lakh females. 
  • Job profile: 
    • Private sector: It is estimated that 5.23 lakh Indians are deployed in the private sector, as construction workers, technicians, engineers, doctors, chartered accountants, IT experts, etc. 
    • Dependents, students and domestic help: About 1.16 lakh are dependents and there are about 60,000 Indian students studying in 23 Indian schools in the country.
      • About 3.27 lakh are domestic workers who are not allowed to bring their spouses/children into the country. 
    • Government sector: About 28,000 Indians work for the Kuwaiti government in various jobs such as nurses, engineers in national oil companies, and a few as scientists. 
  • Remittance from Kuwait: In 2018, India received nearly $4.8 billion from Kuwait as remittances.

Indians in GCC:

  • Of eight million Indian workers in the GCC countries, around 2.1 million of them are from one State - Kerala. 
  • Other major contributors to the Indian expatriate communities in GCC countries are Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab and Rajasthan.

India’s response:

  • According to Indian Ministry of External Affairs, India has shared its concerns and expects that Kuwait’s decision will take it into account.
  • India shares excellent bilateral ties with Kuwait which are deeply rooted in people-to-people linkages. 
  • The Indian community is well-regarded in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf region and their contributions are well recognised. 

Way ahead:

  • A renewed push for nationalisation of jobs and diversification of expatriates is possible. 
    • However, the structure of the GCC economies makes any dramatic change unlikely. 
  • Private sector a bright spot: Nationalisation of government jobs can be achieved to a significant extent, but the private sector will continue to draw the majority of its workforce from abroad.
    • The costs associated with hiring a citizen are too prohibitive for the private sector, which will leave the country if it is forced to recruit at higher cost. 
  • Labour division can not be changed immediately: 
    • Social stratification in GCC countries: That has natives at the top, followed by white professionals from the U.S. and Europe, immigrants from other Arab countries and then others including workers from India. 
    • There is a division of labour among these classes and that cannot be changed in a hurry. 

Hence, replacing Indian or Asian workers on a large scale is not possible, as native Arabs will not do certain categories of work.

About Gulf Cooperation Council

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

  • Established in 1981, the GCC promotes economic, security, cultural and social cooperation between the six states and holds a summit every year to discuss cooperation and regional affairs.
  • HQ - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
  • In 1984, the GCC established a standing coalition land force, the Peninsular Shield Force, tasked to defend the six nation states
  • It is composed of infantry, armour, artillery and combat support elements from each of the states, numbering 40,000 in total.



Image Source: TH