Kuwait restaurants decry ‘expats over 60’ ban, say will hurt business.

The Kuwait Restaurants Union released a memo yesterday criticizing a recent government decision to ban renewing work permits for expatriates aged 60 years or higher who have a high school degree as their highest academic qualification. Al-Jarida daily yesterday published details from the memo, which argues that the ban “goes far beyond regulating the relationship between employers and employees,” and allows the government to control and issue ban orders “in violation of laws and the constitution under the excuse of adjusting Kuwait’s demography.”

The Public Authority for Manpower announced in August 16, 2020 issuing administrative resolution number 520/2020, banning the issuance of work permits for expats aged 60 or higher and without university degrees starting from January 1, 2021. Local dailies later reported that expats who fall under this category would have their expired visas renewed for a period that ends on December 31, 2020, allowing them to prepare to depart by the end of 2020.

The decision – which the government argues is part of efforts to curb Kuwait’s demographic imbalance – disregards employers’ rights to regulate their relationship with their employees, the union said, warning that it will surly jeopardize the safety and continuation of their commercial projects and businesses that have already been hit hard this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The union addressed His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, expressing rejection of the administrative resolution which they said lacks legal causes and poses a constitutional violation, namely of article 22 of the constitution which stipulates that: “Relations between employers and employees and between landlords and tenants shall be regulated by law on economic principles, due regard being given to the rules of social justice.”

Furthermore, the union said that the decision undermines the private sector’s liberty to regulate and organize its work “because the majority of well-experienced staff members in the private sector, who actually pose basic factors of its success, fall under this category.”

Practical solutions
The union’s memo also pointed out that adjusting the demographic imbalance requires practical solutions such as determining the local market’s actual needs of laborers, activating strict legal monitoring, holding visa traffickers and fake companies “that have been swarming the country with excessive numbers of laborers” legally accountable, and intensifying the efforts to deport illegal and marginal laborers.

According to the latest available government figures as of December 31, 2019, there are 1,426,693 expatriates with a high school degree or lower working in the private sector, compared to 188,899 expats with a university degree or higher and 25,238 unspecified, making up a total of 1,640,830 employees in the private sector where expats make up over 90 percent of the total workforce.

The government has reportedly approved a plan during a recent meeting with lawmakers that envisages short, mid and long-term measures to drastically cut the number of expats in the country, with the government proposing to deport as many as 360,000 workers in the short-term.

During a meeting for the parliament’s manpower resources development committee in August 10, panel member MP Osama Al-Shaheen said the government’s plan calls to deport 120,000 illegal workers, 150,000 of expats above 60 who are either employees or dependents or suffering of chronic diseases, in addition to deporting 90,000 marginal and low educated laborers. The committee is also reviewing seven draft laws presented by MPs, all concerning measures to amend the population structure, currently tilted in favor of expats who make up 70 percent of the population.

Among other recent measures the government says it is taking to address the demographic imbalance is a decision the manpower authority has issued on August 23 banning the transfer of expatriate public sector workers to the private sector, which exempts Kuwaiti women’s husbands and children, wives of Kuwaitis, those born in Kuwait, Palestinians with travel documents and those in specialized technical professions in the health field who are transferring to licensed facilities to provide medical services, such as doctors, nurses and others in the medical field.

Under the decision, transferring expat employees from the private sector to the government should comply with procedures followed by the manpower authority and the Civil Service Commission. The authority also said only certain categories of expats are allowed to transfer dependent visas to work in the private sector, including husbands and children of Kuwaiti women, those born in Kuwait, Palestinians with travel documents and those having at least a diploma after the secondary stage from Kuwaiti educational establishments.

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