Kuwait Population Structure Remedies?
Al Qabas newspaper published on April 17, 2017 a report on the preliminary proposals made by the government committee responsible to find remedies for the skewed population structure of Kuwait.
We do not know how accurate this report is, but even if half true, it is likely to do more damage than good. Our reservations are based on its six proposed initiatives.
1. It is difficult to imagine that the household/domestic workers have a serious negative impact on the workforce structure. They represent a minimum cost to society, are marooned inside homes taking care of housekeeping, and can be legally and easily deported at the end of their contract. In all events, the concept of household staff will eventually disappear on its own, as the lesser affluent countries who supply the bulk of our domestics, gradually develop making it impossible for us to hire them at the current wages and terms. Additionally, one questions the wisdom of a reform program that begins with antagonizing half the citizens and turning them into arch-enemies? Does it make sense to trigger a war with the housewives, who rely heavily on their domestics? This seems like poor tactics to a poor strategy.
2. The proposal to reduce entry permits (visas) to workers in security companies contracted to government ministries and organizations, is akin to shooting yourself in the foot. You don’t cut a company’s workforce after it has signed a tender contract. You write the tender specifications to include the use of automation as opposed to manual work, and then award the contracts accordingly. It is also surprising that no mention is made of the public cleaning workers, whose vast numbers and inefficient manual cleaning methods are a major part of the unskilled workers’ problem. Has the expat labor force size, structure, distribution and value added been thoroughly studied and analyzed, or just observed in a cursory manner from field observations?
3. A more muddled proposal is the intention to limit expat workers’ stay to 10 – 20 years. This is likely to encourage the private sector to import cheap unskilled workers, who will learn their trade slowly, over years, through trial and error, at the expense of society. Then, they leave and a new batch of unskilled workers replaces them. A more sensible proposal would be to import highly skilled workers and keep them for 2 – 4 years, during which they benefit by being well-paid, add lots of value and then, leave. From a humane point view, 10 – 20 years represents the longest period of a person’s working life, and to suck his youth and then throw him to the wolves, is far from fair by any standard of moral justice.
4. Most citizens never request “Visit Visas” for foreigners, and the average businessman rarely does. Hence, the proposal to establish a “Visa” quota for each citizen sounds like a recipe for the creation of a black market for “visa quotas” trading. It also raises the question of how will the allocation of quotas be determined? Will it unfairly favor companies with government contracts, as opposed to normal private sector companies? Will it favor big corporations, and squash small business? This seems to be a dreadful idea that has the propensity to further encourage corruption.
5. Fines for “residency” misconduct or overstay, are usually levied on the worker. If so, then doubling them is grossly unfair to those who are weak and defenseless. How big is this particular problem? Does this proposal contribute dramatically to the population structure, or is it a mix-up between law enforcement procedures and demographic planning? Additionally, the definitions of misconduct are hazy and often applied unequally, according to the inspectors’ judgement or mood. It would be better to spend time on overhauling the regulations and applying them properly.
6. The whopper is the Committee’s conclusion, presumably after long and arduous study, that absconding household domestics are a major cause of the population structure distortion! This sounds ridiculous and is difficult to swallow. What is the number of absconding domestics? And more embarrassingly, why do they abscond?
There is no reason for the government to rush announcements of its economic and social reforms. There is no shame in being slow. We understand and accept the limitations of resources and expertise, and the complexities of the problems that have befallen the country.
What is shameful, however, is to present bad solutions that are half-baked and not well studied. Those that result in bigger problems, loss of the opportunity for real reform, higher final costs and instill in the citizens’ a false sense of security and peace of mind.
It is wiser to address problems slowly but surely, before uttering comments or making announcements. This is not a TV game-show where you are allowed three attempts, and can still call a friend for assistance!