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.
- 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.
- 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