KuwaitOther News

Expats aged 60 without degrees to be removed from workforce

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Kuwait will stop issuing work permits for expats aged over 60 without a university degree from Jan 1, 2021. Domestic helpers, however, are exempt from the decision. The decision will impact more than 100,000 expatriates living and working in Kuwait.

Marina came to Kuwait in 1985, and works as a beauty consultant at a salon. She is now 62 years old and is ready to leave if the government will not renew her iqama. Marina has been with the salon for the last nine years.

“I came from Saudi Arabia in 1983, and at the end of my contract, I went back to the Philippines. While still at the airport, I met an employer from Kuwait. She asked me if I wanted to come back and work in Kuwait. I said yes, so she told me to hand a copy of my passport so they can process the visa, and indeed after a month, I got the visa. That woman was my employer from 1985 to 1990. I went back to the Philippines at the height of the Gulf War,” Marina told Kuwait Times.

“The same employer told me to come back in 1992. When she died in 1995, I asked them if they could release me, and they did. I then worked at a bakery from 1996 until 2011. After working with them for almost 15 years, I transferred to a salon and spa as a beautician because I heard they were giving a good salary. So from 2011 until now, I am with the salon working as a beautician,” she said. “I have experience and I am sharing it with others. I like the work and will do it until God says enough,” she said.

‘Accept fate’
But Marina will soon be out of a job, as she is now 62. “I heard the bad news. As you see, I am still able to work – I feel like I’m 40 only. I haven’t even been to a hospital in the past, so I know my health is still good. I know I can work maybe until I am 80, but they already passed this rule, so I will respect and accept my fate come January,” she said.

Her visa expires in February next year. “My employer will try to use wasta, but she told me she doesn’t know if she will succeed. If not, I am ready to pack my bags and leave. My daughter wants me home. I told her until my health is okay and Kuwait is allowing me to stay, I will stay. But we all have to face reality – I am now 62 and if they say go, I will go,” Marina said.

“I will miss this country terribly! I was able to stand alone as a single parent for my child and raised her as good child, and now she has a family of her own. Thank God I am okay, and I can say that I succeeded in life,” she said. “My only request to Kuwait is to help me get a visa when I want to come back. Maybe a visit visa so I can come and hug Kuwait again,” she said.

‘Not ready to leave’
Annie, a guard at a huge shopping mall in Salmiya, has barely two years to go before she reaches the age of 60. “I am afraid – my visa will expire next year. I am 58 now and next year when my employer will apply for a new visa, I will be 59. I am afraid I will not be able to get another visa when they apply for it. As you can see, I am okay – I have no issues with regards to health,” she said.

Annie came to Kuwait as a domestic helper, but was hired by an American subcontractor to work at a US base in 2003. However, her company closed in 2007, prompting her to transfer to a new job at a mall as a guard. “I am not ready to go home. I still want to stay, but if they tell me to go, I will have to leave Kuwait,” she said resignedly.

The new law was agreed upon during the pandemic as part of the government’s plan to cut the overall number of expatriates in the country by as many as 360,000 workers. According to the plan, 150,000 of these will be expats aged over 60. Expats currently make up around 70 percent of Kuwait’s population.

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