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Call to raise minimum wage for dependent visa to KD 450 – Study seeks to double daily fine for absconders

KUWAIT: The government is mulling increasing the minimum wage for expatriates to be eligible to issue dependent visas for their family members, as the state scrambles to find a solution for its demographic imbalance problem. The current law stipulates that a foreigner must earn a minimum KD 250 a month to apply to sponsor his wife and children, but a recent study suggests increasing the amount to KD 450, which excludes a majority of expatriates working in Kuwait.

The average salary of expatriates in the private sector stands at KD 251 a month, according to statistics released earlier this year by the Labor Market Information System (LMIS), which is affiliated to the Central Statistical Bureau (CSB). Meanwhile, nearly 94 percent of expat workers in general earn less than KD 600 a month. Almost 95 percent of employees in the private sector are foreigners, and it currently employs nearly 75 percent of expatriate workers in Kuwait (not including domestic helpers, who make up 17 percent of expatriate workers).

The study also calls for increasing the fines paid by expats facing absconding charges from KD 2 a day to KD 4, while increasing the maximum amount from KD 600 to KD 1,000. It also suggests increasing visa fees paid to immigration authorities and limiting the ratio of every expatriate community in Kuwait to 20 percent compared to Kuwaitis’ population, which if applied, would affect large communities in Kuwait such as the Indian and Egyptian communities.

In parallel, the study makes several suggestions to help encourage Kuwaiti manpower to work in the private sector, at a time when almost 87 percent of Kuwait’s national labor force works in the public sector. These suggestions include paying child allowances to female workers in the public sector similar to their male counterparts, regulating work-from-home activities, organizing labor training sessions for Kuwaitis in cooperation with co-operative societies and schools and allocating sites inside co-op societies where young Kuwaiti women can ‘showcase their culinary talents’.

A report summarizing the results of the study, prepared by the Supreme Council for Planning and Development (SCPD), is expected to be discussed during today’s Cabinet session, Al-Anbaa reported yesterday, quoting ‘high ranking ministerial sources’, who added that the Cabinet “supports SCPD’s efforts to resolve the demographic imbalance” in Kuwait.

Kuwait has taken several steps in recent months that observers believe aim at reducing the country’s expatriate population of nearly three million, which makes up around 70 percent of the country’s total population. These steps include increasing electricity and water tariffs solely for expatriate consumers, which will go into effect next year, and sharply raising fees paid to labor authorities for residency issuance and renewal. The government is also said to be nearing a decision to increase petrol prices, while reports indicate that it currently mulling a formula with lawmakers to limit the impact of this decision on Kuwaiti consumers.

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