Kuwait has raised the minimum wage required for foreigners to sponsor families from 450 Kuwaiti Dinars (USD 1,481) to 500 Kuwaiti Dinars (USD1,646) per month. The decision maintains an existing exemption for 14 professional occupations.
The increase may seem minor, especially compared to the 2016 ministerial decision which imposed a 100% hike in minimum wage requirements, from 250 KD to 450 KD. But the motivations behind the increase are concerning; some local media reports describe the move as a step towards restoring Kuwait’s “demographic imbalance.”
The government’s decision does seem to be driven by pressure from the parliament and the higher committee to tackle the demographic structure. A number of Kuwaiti MPs have proposed various measures to “restoring the population balance,” including imposing a quota on each nationality, taxing remittances, deporting two million expats, and imposing a five-year cap on expatriate’s residence.
According to the latest data available, 70% of Kuwait’s population are foreigners.
Raising minimum wage requirements by 50 KD is likely to do little to shift Kuwait’s demographics, but will do a lot to break apart migrant families who no longer earn enough. Most migrant workers already make less than the minimum wage requirements set by the new decision. In 2018, the average monthly wage for male migrant workers in the private sector was 267 KD (USD 879).
Female migrants in Kuwait remain unable to obtain family visas. Unlike male migrants, they still cannot sponsor their husbands or children over 21 years old. Only parents and children under 21 can be sponsored by female migrants in Kuwait.