2/3 Kuwait Population Foreign, Half from Indian Subcontinent

According to the 2011 census, over two-thirds of Kuwait’s population is comprised of foreigners. Nationals from the Indian subcontinent alone almost outnumber native Kuwaitis. According to the ministry of planning, the population divide between Kuwaitis and foreigners is growing year by year. 

al-monitor Foreign construction workers are seen on a building site in Kuwait City Sept 1, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Jassim Mohammed.

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kuwait population, kuwait 2011 census, kuwait, immigration, immigrants, foreigners in kuwait, economic, arab communities, arab

Apr 2, 2012

A recent census carried out in Kuwait showed that Asians make up the majority of foreigners, who constitute two-thirds of the Kuwaiti population. According to the report of the Ministry of Planning on the 2011 census, this chronic imbalance in the population composition is worsening. Between 2005 and 2006, the number of native Kuwaitis increased by 3.3%, while the number of foreigners increased by 6.7% due to immigration.

The Indian Subcontinent

The total number of the Indian subcontinent's nationals in Kuwait amount to 1.066 million people, which is almost equivalent to the number of Kuwaitis. Indians constitute the largest community, with 647,000 people who play a vital role in the labor market in industrial, service and business fields. Bangladeshis come next with 189,000 people, who are mostly working as domestic servants. They are also accused by Kuwaitis of being involved in many crimes, especially theft. Pakistanis, constituting 120,000 people, work as laborers or craftsmen. There are up to 110,000 Sri Lankans in the country, most of whom are employed as domestic workers. The nationals of the Indian subcontinent are considered an extension of the Kuwaiti heritage in India, and the government does not view them as cause for political alarm. However, some independent Kuwaiti politicians fear that in the long term, relying on them in the local economy will have major political and security effects.

Filipinos, who amount to 142,000 people, form a mix of skilled laborers, such as technicians and nurses, and unskilled workers, such as maids. Recent years have witnesses an increase in the number of Ethiopians, who have reached 74,000 people, while Nepali arrivals reached 52,000. The number of Indonesians, on the other hand, dropped compared to previous periods. Their number had swelled to around 19,000, with most of them working as domestic servants. This decrease comes as a result of the restrictions imposed on female citizens by the Government of Jakarta, banning them from working in the Gulf.

The Iranian community stands at 43,000 people according to official figures. However, some Kuwaiti MPs claim that their actual number is much larger and demand to identify the Iranian labor force more clearly due to security concerns. Afghans, who amount to 14,000 people, have started to replace Iranians in some occupations, such as bakers and construction workers.

Figures showed that the number of Americans swelled to 13,000, making them the largest Western community. However, this figure does not include military personnel under the US armed forces, whose number amounts to 20,000 soldiers living in camps. American residents mainly work in industrial sectors such as oil. Others work in large companies as consultants or are trainers of the Kuwaiti army. Additionally, hundreds of American women are married to Kuwaitis.

Arab Communities

According to official figures, Egyptians are the largest Arab community in Kuwait, amounting to 453,000 people. They work in governmental departments, education and public services, medicine and other fields. An additional large segment of the Egyptian community are construction and maintenance workers. Meanwhile, others are victims of the so-called "residency trade" in Kuwait. Syrians are the second-largest Arab community, with 131,000 working in industrial, commercial, educational and health sectors.

The Jordanian and Palestinian communities remain limited to around 53,000 people. Despite the improvement in relations with Amman and the Palestinian Authority, the Kuwaiti government does not want the Palestinians and Jordanians' number to return to 380,000, as was the case on the eve of the invasion from Iraq in 1990.

The Lebanese population reached 42,000 people, which constitutes a decrease compared to previous periods. This is due to the fact that Lebanese visa applications are being rejected in view of the growing Iranian influence on certain parties in Lebanon. The Lebanese work in trade and vocational fields. The same applies to Iraqis, whose number does not exceed 15,000. Most of the Iraqi community in Kuwait have been living there since 1990. There is no interest, whether official or popular, to increase this population in Kuwait, despite the alleged improvement in relations between Kuwait and Iraq after 2003. The Yemeni community is also very limited, with 11,000 people only.

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