The subject of expatriate workers has become a major issue in the Gulf not only due to their increasing numbers, which is a defect in demographics, but because of the so-called employment of marginal workers. These marginal laborers pose a social, security and economic problem that threaten the safety of Gulf societies. This file must be opened and solved.
The problem of marginal laborers is serious. A lack of income would surely lead to the spread of crimes such as robberies and the proliferation of street vendors, as well as their possible involvement in the drug trade and prostitution. In addition to the social impact, these unemployed people will have a sense of hatred because they don’t hold suitable jobs and cannot live like their peers in the community.
The reason behind this phenomenon in Kuwait is due to administrative corruption, lack of enforcement of laws and allowing some company owners to bring in thousands of people without real work contracts and leaving them in the country without an income and without shelter. It is natural that these people will tend to do any work, whether legal or not, to secure an income, which contributes to the spread of crimes.
Another reason is related to visa traders, who could be owners of small businesses, but they are permitted to apply for the employment of a large number of workers, more than what they actually need. On the arrival of these workers to the country, they let them go to look for a job. Some of them find one, while some of them remain a security and economic burden.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor has taken a decision to reduce the number of marginal workers, which requires reducing expatriate workers by 100,000 every year to reduce their numbers to a million workers within 10 years. But this decision alone is not enough, and there must be practical ways to implement these decisions in humane ways. After all, these people are victims of visa traffickers, who are the real criminals.
Reducing the number of expatriate workers in Kuwait should not be an exclusionary policy by nationality, but according to the labor contract and type of work. Because I do not, for example, agree to prevent Pakistanis from entering the country as doctors, engineers or professionals, yet allow an Arab laborer to enter with no real work just because his country is not on the banned list.
The law should emphasize that there is no place for marginal labor in the Kuwaiti labor market, regardless of nationality. Statistics issued by the General Directorate of Immigration on the number of expats in the country show that Indians are in the first place, with Egyptians second. Bangladeshis are ranked third, Filipinos fourth and in fifth place are Syrian workers.
There is a need to search for a mechanism through which the state can be sure of the professionalism of an applicant in order to eliminate the phenomenon of fraud in skilled professions, which is another reason for this huge increase in workers, causing a defect in the labor market.
The latest census of the population of Kuwait by the end of 2012 showed a total of 3.824 million people, of which expats amounted to 2.311 million, representing about 60.7 percent of the total population. The migration of expat workers to Gulf Council Countries is increasingly linked to projects and plans for economic development and the construction of infrastructure, which is normal, but state intervention is required now to confront the marginal ones.
All the Gulf states including Kuwait will remain open to expatriates with practical skills, such as doctors, teachers, technicians and others who have real jobs, but not marginal workers.
By Muna Al-Fuzai