A proposed law by Kuwaiti MPs has been submitted which seeks to address a long-standing demographic imbalance between expat workers and Kuwaiti nationals. If approved, it could lead to hundreds of thousands of foreign workers being laid off and replaced with locals.
The proposal includes setting proportional limits by nationality so that the number of citizens from any one country does not exceed the number of Kuwaitis, which according to Al-Khaleej Online, would lead to 844,000 Indians and 0.5 million Egyptians facing deportation.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai reported MP Badr Al-Mulla and others argued that the demographic imbalance has had dangerous implications amid the coronavirus pandemic, including overcrowded areas which has contributed to the spread of the virus. The fall in oil prices may also be a contributing factor for Kuwait to nationalise jobs.
There are also calls for freezing job applications from foreigners in addition to cancelling those currently under process or nearing renewal for existing employees.
Proposed penalties for breaching the law is imprisonment not exceeding ten years and a fine not exceeding 100,000 dinars ($323,000) or either of the two.
Kuwaiti authorities are said to have welcomed the move in the hope that all expats working in the government will be replaced by nationals within a year. One MP, Abdulkarim Abdullah Al-Kandari, said the legislation was needed because despite existing regulations designed to reduce the number of foreigners in the government sector, expats continue to comprise 26 per cent of the public sector employees in the country.
According to last year's figures from the Kuwait Public Authority for Civil Information, the population of Kuwait is 4.7 million; 30 per cent of whom are nationals and 70 per cent immigrants.