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Construction, food sectors suffer shortage of workers

By Majd Othman

KUWAIT: After the pandemic, the Kuwait market has suffered from a great shortage in the number of support workers. The construction and food sectors are the most affected by this shortage. There has been some recovery in the local market, but this only includes workers who have official work permits. Meanwhile, the market still suffers from a shortage of marginal workers that most companies depend on, such as in the construction sector, which led to a rise in wages, so costs incurred by contractors and owners of properties is high.

Managers of construction companies told Kuwait Times they are facing big difficulties in recruiting laborers from abroad due to the conditions imposed by official authorities over the number of workers allowed to each company. They pointed out that due to the rising demand for building houses, especially with the end of the summer vacation, the number of company workers aren’t enough. This has forced construction companies to deploy untrained marginal laborers available on the market and pay them higher wages too due to the shortage that is occurring among them as well.

The construction managers said the construction sector is witnessing chaos due to an absence of supervision, calling on the government to intervene and control “street contractors” who work individually without the presence of any oversight by a legal entity, municipal classification or commercial headquarters. This has been accompanied by a tightening by official authorities with regards to requests by contracting companies to increase the number of workers they have.

A construction company manager said average wages have increased by 100 percent, while that of technical workers have increased by 200 percent, indicating this has caused suspension of work at a large number of plots and failure to complete construction due to some workers’ exploitation of the situation and lack of sufficient oversight by relevant state institutions.

Regarding the reasons that have affected the construction sector and caused a shortage of labor, a construction company owner noted the absence of projects by the government during the pandemic caused construction companies to lose hundreds of experienced and efficient workers, as they were unable to bear their costs. He pointed out that most of these expert technical workers moved to neighboring states. The lack of government projects also prompted many Kuwaiti companies to flee to more active and vibrant neighboring markets, which will have a negative impact on Kuwait.

A restaurant owner told Kuwait Times that the local market suffers from a shortage of trained and qualified workers in the food sector, stressing the limited numbers of workers allowed to them from the official authority is preventing them to cover the great demand after recovering from the pandemic, pointing out the restaurant sector is one of the first and largest sectors that was affected by the pandemic.

The Economist Intelligence Unit stated in its report that expatriate workers dominate the private sector in Kuwait, which employs about 1.6 million expatriates and only around 73,000 citizens. Around 205,000 expatriates working in the private sector left Kuwait in 2021, which has hurt local businesses, especially in the hospitality and retail sectors. The report pointed that in 2021, about 41,200 domestic workers left Kuwait permanently. Domestic workers currently constitute around 22.8 percent of the workforce in Kuwait of 2.7 million.




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