It’s a strange phenomenon that I’ve only ever felt in Kuwait. Why is it that every single place I go – be it the gym, the mall, the restaurants, the coffee shops, the offices, I feel like I see an overwhelming number of males.
Where the heck are all the women in this country? Do they not go out, or are they – the females – simply outnumbered?
It got me thinking a lot about the demographics of Kuwait. There must be a birth rate problem. Surely there are too many males being born and not enough females, right?
Well let’s take a look at the latest statistics posted for 2005 and I think we’ll find some pretty interesting results:
All Figures are for Year Ending 2005
• Kuwait Total Population: 2.9 million (up 8.6% for 2005) – huge growth, shows our population and our economy is expanding
• Kuwaitis: 992,000 (up 3.8%) – Can you believe we still didn’t get to a million? It’s been at this number now for seemingly years
• Kuwaiti Females: 51 % – What? This can’t be right. Where are they?
• Kuwait Males: 49% – But everywhere I look, I see males. Impossible.
• Non Kuwaiti Males: 70% – And so lies the problem
• Non Kuwaiti Females: 30% – And so lies the problem part 2
• Kuwaitis under age of 15: 40% – Amazing Statistic. Now we know why Marina is always packed with kids
• Kuwaitis under age of 30: 68% – Kuwait, according to this statistic, is an incredibly young country.
Most Populated Areas in Kuwait : Hawalli and Farwaniyah, where 48% of the total population live. This explains the traffic problems associated with these areas.
And so, we find (at least partial) answers to our questions:
70% of the Ex-pats who come to Kuwait (a total of 2 million) are Males. Translated into approximate numbers, this is roughly 1.4 million males to 600,000 females. A shocking imbalance.
So why is this?
Well, let’s look beyond the recent influx of foreign contractors who now reside in Kuwait and look to identify the real, crux of the problem.
Kuwait is one of the few countries in the World, where Nationals do NOT work in the ‘service sector.’ Our ‘service sector’ relies solely on TCN’s (American terminology for ‘Third Country Nationals’) to do the associated work.
Jobs in Construction, Transportation, Food and Catering, Industrial Cleaning and any other type of Manual Labor typically require males to do the often laborious tasks.
Typically these ex-pat males will NOT be able to come to Kuwait with their wives or their families due to the high costs of living associated with the country. For the average service sector worker, Kuwait is an excellent place to earn a comparatively good wage before returning back to their originating countries with the monies saved. Those leaving workers are then simply replaced by more TCN’s – and thus, the cycle continues.
And the future?
As our companies grow bigger; our need for manpower will also be increasing. The rift between the male and female population is therefore set to grow even further.
So what of other countries in the region with similar setups. What of countries like the Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain? There are hundreds of thousands of service sector jobs there – how come the ratio doesn’t ‘appear’ as skewed as Kuwait?
Well, there are a number of possible reasons:
1) Tourism: Vacationing families, vacationing couples and mixed sex ‘singles’ often go to Dubai, Qatar or Bahrain for fun, entertainment and relaxation. In many public places, you will see a good mixture of couples and ‘mixed sex’ groups which helps to increase diversity and at least ‘mask over’ the demographic disproportions.
2) Career Perspectives: Kuwait, as a country, is simply not as enticing as our neighbors for single ex-pat females to live and work in. We are still a society which is predominantly male orientated. I’m sure we all know many ex-pat females who didn’t think twice about taking a job in the Emirates, Qatar or Bahrain. Can the same be said of Kuwait? The environment is simply not as appealing.
Solutions: Whilst we could of course debate this all day, we could start by:
-Promoting Kuwait as an equal opportunity country for both sexes to live and work.
-Increase Touristic Interest in the country. Perhaps with the advent of projects like Failaka Island, we will see a slow, gradual push toward the true value of tourism.
-Encourage ex-pat families to reside here by offering them the right to buy land or properties.
I would like to leave you with one last question to ponder on. When was the last time you heard of a group of young, single females going to Kuwait on a random visit or vacation?
Hmmm….even our stat book will be hard pressed to answer that question.