For decades, Kuwait has been a popular expat destination. To this day, moving to this Arab country does not seem to have lost any of its appeal. What makes it so popular?
Part of the explanation is tied to the country’s economic prosperity and the career prospects it offers. Many expatriates moving to Kuwait are attracted by the high salaries that compare well to international standards. The fact that there are no taxes to be paid does not hurt, either.
For those who can afford it, moving to Kuwait could offer a high standard of living with all imaginable amenities. At the same time, as many expats who have taken the plunge and moved to Kuwait report, it is a great place to get to know Arab traditions and culture. Therefore, getting a job in the Gulf country can lead to a rewarding expat experience.
Kuwait’s economy is one of the main reasons why expats move there. Today, the country’s economic success still squarely relies upon the oil industry. Oil products account for close to 50% of the GDP and more than 90% of government income. The renewed rise of oil prices in 2011 and early 2012 led to a significant increase in government spending and economic growth. The recent decline in oil prices in 2015, however, led to a record annual budget deficit for the first time in 16 years.
Income from oil revenues has enabled the Kuwaiti government to greatly enhance the public education system and develop a comprehensive social security system. Expats in Kuwait, however, may only partly benefit from this because of the recent restrictions and bans on healthcare access and driving.
Some expats moving to Kuwait may be worried about the local political situation. During the tidal wave of uprisings in the Arab world in 2010 and 2011, people in Kuwait protested as well. These were part of the fight against corruption and broad economic and political reforms. Calls for the resignation of the prime minister, however, were unsuccessful.
The current political system in Kuwait can be described as a constitutional monarchy. The head of state (Emir) holds considerable powers, and the position is hereditary: The ruling Al-Sabah family nominates a new Emir from within its own ranks.
Many foreigners moving to Kuwait may not be aware that the country also has the oldest directly elected parliament among Arab states in the Persian Gulf region. Since women’s voting rights were introduced in 2005, Kuwait truly has had universal suffrage.
The majority of expatriates moving to Kuwait do so to work in the country’s oil industry. Kuwait’s rapidly-growing financial sector and fields such as marketing, sales, and business development also offer rewarding opportunities for expats moving to Kuwait. However, expats might face some difficulties in the future, with the government already drawing up plans to cut down the huge number of expats currently living in Kuwait in an attempt to give an advantage to the local workforce.
Both Kuwaiti-owned companies and the many multinationals operating in Kuwait employ expatriates on a regular basis. Also, expats considering a move to Kuwait should not disregard working in the public sector. Recently, however, a new law was passed to prevent all expats aged over 50 from working in the public sector, so this option mainly applies to younger expatriates.
In recent years, however, job opportunities for expats wishing to move to Kuwait have been shrinking. This is mainly due to competition from increasingly well-educated Kuwaiti graduates as well as government efforts to get more locals into upper-management jobs. In March 2013, the Kuwaiti government announced its plan to reduce the number of expats in Kuwait by one million over the next ten years. Nevertheless, with a degree in the right field and relevant work experience, expats will still find lucrative opportunities to move to Kuwait.
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