Percentage of Foreign Workers in GCC Countries

Post by Mark

The chart above was put together by Saudi journalist Ahmed Al Omran showing the percentage of foreign workers in different GCC countries. Kuwait falls in 3rd place after UAE and Qatar and that’s really not bad. If anything Kuwait should open up more to expats since based on the chart above you can see that the countries with the highest amount of expats are the most developed while the countries with the least are further behind. [source]


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60 comments, add your own...


  1. Zorbon says:

    Like all stats, this has part of the truth.
    These numbers do not describe the type of expat worker, skilled vs. unskilled. I think Kuwait has alot of unskilled “laborer” type expats…
    Thus saying more expats can lead to more development is not entirely accurate.

    • aaa says:

      Qatar currently has a really large number of unskilled expats because of the massive construction projects they’ve started for the World Cup and such.

      A quick sort-of-accurate way to tell: look at the ratio of males to females. In Qatar, the male:female ratio is almost 1:1 at birth, but in the 25-54 demographic it’s almost 5 men for every 1 woman.

      In Kuwait the male:female ratio for 25-54 year olds is about 1.75 men to every woman.

      Unskilled workers in the GCC often live in men-only camps and leave their family behind, and if the demographic imbalance is 5 men to 1 woman then there must be a whole lot of unskilled workers in Qatar

      • ahmed says:

        So it’s safe to assume that Qatari women have a better chance of getting married then your women. Bottom-line is this, if Kuwait looked at restructuring their visa’s and opening their market to foreign investment, which you argue in a previous statement that your government does not want to do, your country would be in a far better place, considering that development projects were implemented. But what I see as a core reason for the stagnation of your nation, is that these key projects are not being bid and these projects would open up alot of jobs for your nationals. It would be interesting to break this down further the way you have done and by nationality. The UAE would have a higher population of sub-continent workers, but further breaking it down, might have a higher ratio of skilled sub-continent workers because they have investment visa’s and an open market.

  2. Joe says:

    Bahrain and Oman behind Kuwait?! You must be joking right?

    • aaa says:

      Uh… without saying too much that will get me in trouble, Bahrain is way behind the rest of the GCC in multiple aspects

      • ahmed says:

        But they are implementing EGATE, as well as, Oman.

        • nYx says:

          Why is it that a system for entry into a country is supposed to be a Yardstick for development?

          • ahmed says:

            Simple, because it is a measure of advancement and all airports are gateways, so if your gateway (airport) is modern and has sophisticated ‘systems’ in place like EGATE, further SUPERGATE which the UAE has just implemented in Terminal 3, you show your advancement. You will need people to not only implement new ‘systems’ in your country, but people to train your people to use them. If you want to know who is implementing EGATE around the GCC, just give the Emiritis a call, they will tell you who is organizing this system. Your immigration process would be simplified with this process and correct alot of the problems you now face in immigration. How your infrastucture is built and how your infrastructure is organized is the yardstick.

  3. Matt says:

    It’s a chicken & egg thing….Are the other countries more developed because of more foreign labor or does a more developed country need more foreign labor?

  4. Tajer says:

    Your joking right?

    You think more expats = more development?

    What we lack in Kuwait is proper institutional infrastructure, thats it.

    Eg. Try to take out a licence to start a Baqala or a small resturant, and you will see what i mean.

    If we adopt something like the system UAE has or even Singapore, you’ll see us pass UAE and Qatar, since we have alot of talent and creativity, yet no proper infrastructure to hold it, thus they leave kuwait to some more friendlier economic environments.

    • Where do you think our talent is going? Qatar and UAE.

      Several of our people are working and developing their projects there because they actually have a chance, in here, their projects get stuck in a shelf forever forgotten in oblivion.

  5. aaa says:

    “countries with the highest amount of expats are the most developed while the countries with the least are further behind”

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that, countries that are in their rapid development phase right now have a lot more jobs that their local workforce can’t fill. At some point the local government will think “Ok thanks guys we need to give our citizens jobs” and they start putting restrictions on foreign labor.

    • Ashraf says:

      “”At some point the local government will think “Ok thanks guys we need to give our citizens jobs” and they start putting restrictions on foreign labor.””

      and they will start hiring locals and terminating the expats sans some.
      the some that remains will have to do his job + the job of the ones terminated.. lets face it people.. a huge chunk of locals go to work to kill time.. they dont really wanna work.

      call it them being lazy or complacent.. that is the truth. a lot of locals lack responsibility.. coz most of the things are readily available for them or atleast they dont have to struggle to the extent would have to.

      hence, the expats push hard at work while the locals might try a little and then just give up.

      Necessity is the mother of all invention.. and in the current scenario.. the locals dont really have a necessity that is not fulfilled.

      • aaa says:

        A big part of it is the jobs themselves. I’ve seen a lot of motivated Kuwaiti workers show up to a private job that didn’t really use them properly, and then a year or two in they end up being one of the workers you described that show up to get their salary then go home.

        Also if you’re overseas no shit you’re gonna work harder, you have a lot more to lose and you’ve already made the decision to leave behind a big chunk of your life for your career.

        • Ashraf says:

          You see.. you are to work for the company and not the other way round.

          when you join a company.. they will give you a specific list of tasks.. few months in to the job.. things start getting monotonous.. its a part & parcel of being employed.

          while an expat has no option but to work atleast till finding a new job, a local always has the option to leave
          and chill for a few months before looking somewhere else.

          what I’m getting at is that with the locals, the percentage of employee retainment drops by a huge margin when you compare the same to expats.

          things are changing.. i can see that.. the younger locals are far more educated, humble & ambitious than the old lot.. but this is just the begining.. there’s still a long long way to go.

          in the next 10 years or so, i dont see any private company hiring a local instead of an expat strictly based on suitability for the job and even if they do, they will give him an assistant to help with his tasks.

          it’s just that right now.. for a private company, whose main Aim is to make profits and keep the business running.. it would be so hard to handover a complete department or a big responsibilty to a local considering that he/she might leave anytime.

          with an expat the company will always have the upper hand.. coz of visa restrictions & tons of other things..

          it wouldnt be the same with a local.

    • Nixon says:

      Exactly what aaa said.
      I think middle ground is the best.
      And you cant make rational conclusions about development and percentages by looking at this small statistic population (6).

  6. Sami says:

    Being an expat yourself, I can understand your defense of them. However, what we need is less expats and more reliance on ourselves. Having a 60% expat population is very bad, and although I am not in a position of power or decision making, I do my best to discourage people reliying on foreigners.

    • Ashraf says:

      Thats a good thing.. lets try calling a local plumber the next time you have a problem with the pipelines.. or a local AC technician when your AC doesnt work..

      or go to a local mechanic to repair your car…

      as much as it sounds good.. in middle east its not possible to not rely on foreigners.

      in U.S or UK you will find the locals working in the gas station, super markets etc etc..

      i doubt if you will find that in here.

      • Sami says:

        I am patient, and It will happen.

      • aaa says:

        Egypt? Jordan? Lebanon? Syria? Iraq? The local population there does everything. The GCC is nothing compared to the rest of the Middle East population wise.

        • a says:

          Saudi Arabia has 25 million citizens. Kuwait has 1.4 million citizens. Bahrain has 600,000 citizens. UAE has 980,000 citizens. Qatar has 200,000 citizens. Oman has 3 million citizens.

          All of the citizen populations of GCC members combined = 31 million citizens in total.

          But you seem to forget that GCC is not a single union, it is merely a political organization like that European Union.

          The local population of Saudi Arabia and Oman do a lot. Oman only has 500,000 expatriate workers. Oman’s total population is 3.1 million.

          • muscati says:

            Actually Oman has an expat population of 1.7 million the majority of which are from India. The construction sector alone probably accounts for more than half of them. Oman too has recently announced an intention to gradually reduce the number of expats and the sultan suggested that Omani to Expat ratio should be brought to 70-30, whereas it is currently at 56-44.

            However unlike Kuwait Oman strictly enforces the hiring of nations by applying ratios on certain jobs. For example banks are now 92% “Omanized” and some jobs are restricted to Omanis, for example all taxi drivers are Omanis. In most industries Omanization is at minimum of 20 or 25% except for manual labor which still mostly expats. If you go to any hotel, shop or restaurant in Oman you will find Omanis working everything from salespeople, waiters, kitchen staff, bell hops, and so on.

            • aaa says:

              Kuwait does this btw. The ratio is slowly going up year by year, banks are at something like 60% Kuwaitis required. They put the % quota on retail companies too but they never meet it and pay the fines instead.

          • aaa says:

            Egypt alone is almost 90 million!

        • Ashraf says:

          Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria & Iraq has nothing in common to Kuwait.. except for the language may be.

          there people have to work to earn a living.

        • Fedup says:

          Jordan ? Lebanon ? No chance . Jordan has almost half a Million expat Egyptians . Lebanon has Over a million Palestinians who do all the Jobs the lebanese wont do . Work is work , no shame in it .

    • Arif Hossain says:

      I do believe this too. I am an expat too, but I believe for any economy to grow their own involvement is much more necessary then that of others.

    • a says:

      Kuwait doesn’t have a 60% expat population. Kuwait has a 47% expat population:
      https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2119.html#ku

      The CIA is an intelligence agency that is MORE RELIABLE than a so-called Saudi writer’s Twitter account.

      The government of Kuwait has not done any population census since 2008/2009, the population demographics of Kuwait have changed a lot since 2009.

      Kuwaitis constitute at least 45%-53% of Kuwait’s total population (source: CIA).

  7. Ahmad says:

    What Kuwait really needs is more reliance on local manpower. This cannot happen since locals don’t work for the so called hard jobs (construction, cleaning, store sales, manual labour, house help etc.). But then you also don’t expect a population with a high average income to do that. You end up in a situation where the locals want to work as managers, VP’s, CEO’s etc. without having enough experience and qualification.

    The only solution to this catch 22 situation is for the government to improve quality of education, incentivize SME’s, reduce red-tape/wasta and push locals to take up entry level jobs and then make their way up the corporate ladder.

    Looking at the infrastructure in some of the universities, I am sure the government is trying.

  8. Jamakhan says:

    The chart shows countries with the most restrictions are the ones people find the least desirable to work in.

    • a says:

      Bahrain doesn’t have any restrictions for expatriates. Homosexuality is legal in Bahrain. Alcohol is easily available, even at some restaurants.

      Bahrain only has restrictions for religious people, let’s be real here.

  9. Oman and Saudi started their “ization” process by bringing their citizens into the workfield. I visited Oman and was surprised when I opened the door and there was an Omani guy there to get my bags. Kuwait has yet to start their “ization” as they are still too good for certain jobs and unity doesn’t exist.

  10. a says:

    This graph is not reliable at all. Your source is a Saudi ”writer”?

    Look, Mark, please use reliable sources. CIA have confirmed that Kuwaitis now constitute 53% of Kuwait’s total population, therefore Kuwaitis currently outnumber expatriates:

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2119.html#ku

    Kuwait’s total population is: 2,695,316
    including 1.29 million expatriates. That means there are 1.4 million Kuwaitis and 1.29 million non-Kuwaitis.

    The government of Kuwait hasn’t done any form of official population census since 2008/2009 — before all the (recent) restrictions of visas for expats and whatnot. The population of Kuwait has drastically changed since 2008 and 2009.

    CIA’s estimation of Kuwait’s total population is far more reliable than this Saudi writer’s baseless assumptions.

    • Mark says:

      According to the link you just posted, Kuwait makes up 45% of the total population not 53%
      https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ku.html

      Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, Iranian 4%, other 7%

      They also don’t mention the source for the number but it could very possibly be from the 2009 official Kuwait population census.

    • Sami says:

      I don’t know why are you so obsessed with the CIA fact-book. But let’s assume that what you say is true, and Kuwaitis are currently outnumber expatriates, well they should! Not only that, the expatriate population in any normal country should not exceed more than 10% of the total population.

      • lolguy says:

        Most of these ‘normal’ countries gradually absorb the expatriate population by granting them citizenship rights after a certain number of years.

        • Sami says:

          Any method of reducing the expat population would do, including naturalising expats who spent many years in Kuwait.

        • Fedup says:

          Israel has the most educated population in the world. No chance to get citizenship there . Try Getting US citizenship with out being born there , no chance. This BS about getting citizenship jut because you live somewhere for a certain amount of time is only when countries need people to boost their economies. When they have too many people they stop . In kuwait’s Instance it would be productive to grant citizenship to very highly skilled and talented people only , but doing so based solely on how long they have lived here is nonsense . A few years after the government stops guaranteeing Jobs for kuwaitis you will see a drastic improvement in productivity provided that the government is managed efficiently . The private sector would explode if Kuwaiti’s didn’t have government job security . Motivated , educated and well trained kuwaiti’s are very productive .

    • muscati says:

      All GCC countries, Kuwait included, conducted population censuses in in 2011. Kuwait’s census showed a total population of 3.066 million of which 1.976 million are expats, i.e. 64%

      However, Ministry of Health data released earlier this year showed that the current population of Kuwait is 3.719 million of which 2.534 million are expats, i.e. 68%

    • aaa says:

      Stop linking CIA factbook, Kuwait’s internal census returned different numbers.

    • Lucky_dude says:

      a your source is outdated, for up-to-date numbers check http://www.paci.gov.kw/en/.
      Total: 3.8millions
      Kuwaities : 1.2milion
      Non-Kuwaitties 2.6 millions

  11. QT says:

    I think its more about quality than quantity where the above chart is concerned related to development

  12. Naif says:

    “the countries with the highest amount of expats are the most developed while the countries with the least are further behind” I don’t think that’s true, Saudi Arabia is more developed than Kuwait & it has less expats according to the post.

  13. Spikz says:

    This figure is going to drop highly for Saudi and Kuwait in the coming months or years , however it will increase for Qatar and Dubai since they have many development plans in place.

    • Nixon says:

      True, or at least I hope. I really do wish that kuwait would try to rely more on itself.
      But the main reason that it will increase or decrease isnt because of the development (or the lack of) its just because the government wants to reduce expat numbers.
      Yet, that doesn’t mean that qatar and dubai want an increase in expat numbers. No, it means that they value development more than the issue of rising expat numbers.

  14. Nothingologist says:

    Erm…for official population demographics (live, not census based, so any cancelled residencies and deportations are reflected), including full statistics on distribution, gender splits, educational levels, nationalities, educational level and what not, simply check:

    http://www.paci.gov.kw/en/

    All the metrics you need are under ‘Statistics.’

  15. Lucky_dude says:

    @a your source is outdated, for up-to-date numbers check http://www.paci.gov.kw/en/.
    Total: 3.8millions
    Kuwaities : 1.2milion
    Non-Kuwaitties 2.6 millions


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