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Kuwait's Expat Bill and Impact on India

Kuwait's Expat Bill & Impact on India

Context:

The legal and legislative committee of Kuwait's National Assembly has approved the draft expat quota bill, according to which Indians should not exceed 15 percent of the population. As per this 7-8 lakh Indians could be forced out of Kuwait.

Background

  • There is a presence of over one million Indian community members in Kuwait (the largest expatriate community in Kuwait). It forms an important dimension of bilateral ties between India and Kuwait.

Summary of the Debate

EXPAT QUOTA BILL: ANALYSIS

Not the first country and the first time:

  • This is not the first time, this is happening in the Gulf countries. It depends on the economic issues of the country.
    • All gulf countries are trying to work on the localization of their workforce.
    • Omanization is a policy enacted by the government of Oman in 1988 aimed at replacing expatriate workers with trained Omani Personnel. The Sultanate of Oman sets quotas for various industries to reach in terms of the percentage of Omani to foreign workers.
    • There was also a bill in Saudi Arabia which reduced the number of expatriates working there.
    • Emiratisation (or Emiratization) is an initiative by the government of the United Arab Emirates to employ its citizens in a meaningful and efficient manner in the public and private sectors.

Legality of the bill:

  • Kuwait has labour laws, according to which they have procedure to set rules for the recruitment of non-kuwaiti in way that enable the ministry to control and regulate the labour market in accordance with the goal of the country to replace the expatriate personnel with the national manpower gradually.

Pressure from the Native Population:

  • Kuwait's government is facing pressure from the natives because of the economic instability due to COVID 19.
  • Large numbers of expats were impacted by coronavirus and that’s why India provided the rapid response team to Kuwait in the first place.
  • Kuwait was one of the first nations that offered to send Indians back at his own expense because it could not handle it.

Expatriates in the country:

  • More than the natives, expatriates living in the country. With this proposed law, Kuwait is trying to turn the ratio of the workforce. Earlier it was 70 percent but after the passing of the bill it would be 30 percent. Indians constitute the largest expats, near around 1.45 million people.

Present situation:

  • So far the law has not been passed and it is just a proposal which is in the parliament for discussion.

Reasons behind the move

  • Fall in Oil Prices: The main reason behind such a bill is the fall in oil prices and declining of all revenues on which the Kuwaiti economy is largely based. Kuwait is facing this situation since the Covid-19 has hit the oil market.
    • Kuwait is one of the major oil-producing countries and it depends substantially for its budget from the oil revenues and for the last 3 months the oil prices have come down.
  • Coivd-19: Kuwait is spending a lot of money on handling the situation of the Covid-19 outbreak. After Iran, Kuwait was the second-worst affected country. Its spending on the expatriates was far higher than on its natives.
  • Local domestication of workers like Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Emirates is also happening in the country.
  • Hindutva Aspect: Locals in the gulf countries are also taking the issue of Hindutva in India and are calling for restrictions on Indian Expatriates.

Future of Expatriates

  • Like most of the Gulf countries, Kuwait had also got help from expatriates when in the 1970s and 980’s its economy saw a boost. Among expatriates, Indians were at the forefront of working and building their infrastructure.
  • In Kuwait, 27 percent of the population of expatriates are Indians, which is at the top and then at second the Egyptians. So, the issue is not only about the Indians but of all the Expatriates community.
  • The skilled labours will not face the heat but non-skilled labor might send back home. Skilled labour will retain the position.
    • To maintain that kind of standard which these countries have or the infrastructure which need maintenance and repairing, the expatriates cannot be replaced by the domestic workers.

Way Forward

  • India should prepare a database of these returnees and their skills so that the states in India could get benefits and provide jobs to them.
  • Once the economy will bounce back and their industries come on track they will require people.
  • Nexus between the agents on both side of the country needs to be stopped.

Conclusion

This is not something new, so it is going to take some time before we see it completed. Austerity measures are in place and we may see more of it in the coming months. This is temporary in nature and things will change once this pandemic will end.

 

Mains points made by the Guests

1. Anil Trigunayat, Former Ambassador:

  • All Gulf countries are trying to work on the localization of their workforce.
  • India should prepare a database of these returnees and their skills so that the states in India could get benefits and provide jobs to them.

2. Prof. A. K. Pasha, Centre for West Asian Studies, JNU :

  • The main reason behind such a bill is the fall in oil prices
  • Local domestication of workers like Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Emirates is also happening in the country.
  • Locals in the gulf countries are also taking the issue of Hindutva in India and are calling for restrictions on Indian Expatriates

3. Waiel Awwad, West Asia Expert:

  • In Kuwait, 27 percent of the population of expatriates are Indians, which is at the top.
  • Among expatriates, Indians were in the forefront of working and building their infrastructure.
  • So far the law has not been passed and it is just a proposal which is in the parliament for discussion.

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