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General Information about Kuwait

Kuwait's Population and Labor Force

Kuwait’s population reached 3.48 million at the end of 2009 according to the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI). The population grew by 1.3% on the year. The number of Kuwaiti nationals continued to increase but at a slower rate than the average of the previous five years. The number of non-Kuwaiti residents increased by 0.5%. There were 1.11 million Kuwaitis, or 32% of the total population.
 
The slow growth of Kuwait’s population since 2008 was caused in large part by the much slower growth of the expatriate population, due to the fallout from the economic crisis. The number of expatriates grew only 11,700 in 2009, versus an average yearly gain of 109,000 in the years 2001-08. Nearly 1.2 million people were added to Kuwait’s population over the last ten years, of which 73% were expatriates, reflecting the strong economy of the boom years.
 
Kuwait’s total adult population (over 20 years of age) reached 2.25 million, 65% of the total population. For Kuwaitis, the data show that 49% are under 20-years old. Also the Kuwaiti population splits almost evenly into men and women at 51%-49%.

In 2009, labor force growth in Kuwait remained weak, with the number increasing by a small 0.3% to reach 2.1 million. For expatriate workers, the numbers were up in the public and domestic (household) sectors, while they fell slightly in the private sector.
 
The number of employed Kuwaitis rose by over 19,000 compared with 15,000 in 2008. Nearly 60% of these jobs were in the private sector with Kuwaitis employed in the sector reaching 68,200. Thus in 2009, 20% of Kuwaitis worked in the private sector, up from 18% in 2008 and 16% in 2007.

The rising private sector share is partly the result of the National Labor Support law of 2000. The law provides Kuwaitis working in the private sector with the same benefits available in the public sector. Of course, the expansion of the private sector during the boom years was also a helping factor.

The services industry employs more than 66% of Kuwait’s labor force. Most of it is in the community, social and personal services sector, which includes the government/public sector. Services also accounted for 71% of the net increase in jobs during 2009. The wholesale and retail trade and restaurant sector is another major employer accounting for over 15% of the country’s labor force.

The construction and industrial sectors, 8% and 7% of the labor force, respectively, are the sectors most heavily reliant on expatriate labor; 95% of workers in the construction sector are non-Kuwaiti. The number of non-Kuwaitis working in the construction sector fell by 2% in 2008 and 4% in 2009. This trend appears to be a result primarily of a contracting construction sector with many new projects on hold. Companies seem to have reduced their staff.

Crude oil production and manufacturing, including refining, employ 8% of nationals in the workforce. The electricity, water and gas (‘Utilities’) industries mainly employ Kuwaiti nationals, who represent 83% of the workforce in this sector.
 
Meanwhile, 37% of the expatriate labor force works in the community, social and personal services sector. These total over 649,000 non-Kuwaitis and include household workers, drivers, and unskilled domestic labor. More than 308,000 expatriates are employed in trade and hospitality sector, down 1% from 2008. The number of expatriates employed in the financial and business services sector also fell by 2%, and this sector now employs 89,000 non-Kuwaitis. Meanwhile, the construction sector employs 9% of the total expatriate labor force, down 4% from the previous year. Almost 113,000 non-Kuwaitis work in the manufacturing industry, including refining.
 
A breakdown of the top ten largest jobs by professions shows that the biggest gains by Kuwaitis, 88% of total net gains, were in clerical and secretarial positions, which represent one-third of all jobs held by Kuwaitis.

In conclusion, the Kuwaiti national population is still growing near its 3% trend rate. On the employment side, private sector employment of Kuwaitis continues apace. The current 20% share of Kuwaitis in the private sector is bound to rise further as the trend continues and as it is reinforced by upcoming measures mentioned in the current 5-year economic plan.

Published May 16th, 2010 - 09:56 GMT