Following Kuwait’s three-week lockdown coupled with efforts to manage its foreign worker population, the spread of COVID-19 has stagnated, prompting lockdown measures to ease today.
Kuwait’s foreign workers, who constitute 70% of the population, are often relegated to overcrowded neighbourhoods with poor sanitation. Though most early COVID-19 cases were linked to travel, recent data has signalled a spread in these areas, making them a target for authorities.
In an effort to curb the virus’ spread, Kuwait has been encouraging foreign workers to be voluntarily repatriated in exchange for certain benefits. However, the roughly 23,500 undocumented workers who volunteered in exchange for re-entry have been confined in detention centres for months, and are demanding their return home. A number of public and private companies—including Kuwait Airways—have laid off foreign workers and terminated their visas, forcing them to either leave the country or work illegally.
The separation of Kuwait’s migrant workers may be effective in mitigating COVID-19 in the short-term. However, humanitarian issues notwithstanding, this policy will significantly affect Kuwait’s struggling economy in the long-term. Expect a gap to appear in the Kuwaiti labour market, paving the way for the potential growth of the country’s shadow economy.
Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.
Esra is an analyst on the Current Developments division and a member of The Daily Brief’s research team. She specialises in political and security issues with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa.