As a slump in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic hurts Gulf economies, Kuwait's prime minister said that the country's expatriate population should be more than halved to 30 percent.
"The ideal population structure is to have Kuwaitis being 70 percent and non-Kuwaitis 30 percent, so we have a big challenge in the future, which is to address the discrepancy in the population," said Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, in a meeting with editors of local newspaper, according to a report by Zawya, a Middle Eastern publishing house.
Foreigners account for nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait's 4.8 million people.
A Bloomberg report said that MPs of the country are proposing a quota system as well as replacing all expatriate government employees, estimated at 100,000, with Kuwaitis.
"The percentage of domestic helpers alone is more than 50% of Kuwaitis, let alone the other residents," said Sajed Al-Abdaly, a prominent political columnist, as quoted on Bloomberg.
At least 650,000 expatriates in Kuwait, mostly from the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, are employed as domestic workers alone.
Expats moved to Gulf economies to earn better incomes in a low-tax environment, part of which is repatriated home, but are vulnerable with few safety nets in their host nation or routes to citizenship.
Foreigners have accounted for the majority of Kuwait's COVID-19 cases as the disease spread among migrant workers living in overcrowded housing.
In his comments to leading editors, the premier restated that Kuwait had to diversify its economy to reduce dependence on oil as with carbon sales account for an estimated 90 percent of total government income.
Further,he said that 224 companies had been referred to public prosecutors based on information that they broke laws by trading in residency permits, referring to a practice that illegally brings in overseas workers and transfers them between employers.
"We are responsible for everyone who lives on this land and the residency trade has exhausted the state," he said, "especially when dealing with the current situation," state-run KUNA reported.