While the exceptional decisions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic are still in effect in the country including preventing non- Kuwaitis from entering the country, business sectors are being severely affected. Besides the bleeding of losses, there is a flagrant shortage of manpower, reports Al-Qabas daily. According to official sources, business owners have repeatedly demanded the relevant government agencies to allow the entry for employees with valid residency permits in the country, in line with the necessary health measures. They revealed that there are about 350,000 workers holding valid residency permits, and had renewed work permits and civil IDs during the last period. The sources explained that the labor market lost about half a million workers during 2020 (350,000 with valid residency, and 150,000 who left permanently). Therefore, it is necessary to take required measures to allow the stranded people to gradually return.
According to statistics, the total number of workers who left the labor market during 2020 reached 31 percent of the total registered manpower in the business sectors. Commenting on the labor shortage, Khaled Al-Ashab – a human resources official in a logistics service company – said, “The shortage of labor has doubled. Many companies suffer from a shortage of drivers, especially heavy vehicle drivers, as well as specialized and technical skilled workers in the field of mechanics, maintenance, cleaning, service employment and construction sectors.
Yousef Al-Shammari, who owns agricultural and contracting activities, said, “The shortage of manpower in the agricultural sector is huge. The demand for workers has increased, and their salaries have increased currently to KD 350 from KD 120 before the crisis Employment in the agricultural sector has become scarce, after allowing the transfer of workers to other sectors where they wish to work. This increased the gap in the shortage in the farms, and the demand for labor became high. The same applies to the grazing and fishing sectors”.
In the health sector, officials from the Ministry of Health affirmed that a recommendation to allow the return of workers stranded outside the country is subject to further studies and follow-up of developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic locally and globally. They stressed that the COVID- 19 curve differs from one country to another, due to which it is difficult to generalize the recommendation to all countries from where expatriates come.
The health officials explained that the epidemiological situation differs among the countries. Therefore, receiving specific doses of COVID-19 vaccines may not guarantee the entry of those workers into the country, given the string of new mutations and strains in some countries such as India, which recorded 349,691 cases of the COVID-19 virus and 2,767 deaths in a single day recently.
This confirms the seriousness of the conditions in some countries where the workers are stuck outside Kuwait. In addition, the Ministry of Health recommends people to avoid traveling during the current period unless it is absolutely necessary. It stressed that the decisions taken to suspend and prevent entry of any expatriate coming from specific countries are aimed to prevent the infiltration of new strains of the virus that may contribute to its rapid spread in the country and lead to a spike in the rate of daily infections and deaths.
It is worth mentioning that the most prominent sectors experiencing a shortage of manpower are fishing, restaurants, farms, specialized technical professions and contracting companies. The current statistics show that the labor market has 1,586,494 expatriates. About 151,990 workers permanently left Kuwait in 2020, and about 350,000 workers are stuck abroad with valid residency. This constitutes 31 percent of the manpower shortage in the labor market.