Expats are drawn to work at the tip of the Persian Gulf by the opportunity to earn the world’s strongest currency, the Kuwaiti dinar, without needing to pay personal income tax.
Due to Kuwait's small size and population, the country has largely been reliant on foreign workers to fill key positions within both the skilled and unskilled sectors. This has made Kuwait an attractive expat destination.
However, since 2013, the government’s Kuwaitisation programme has been looking to limit the number of foreigners in Kuwait, with increased restrictions in 2020. The aim is for Kuwait to invest in its own nationals and ensure the local labour market can be formally employed. These plans also reduce generous subsidies for expat workers. While highly skilled workers may still be able to find work, their jobs could involve training a Kuwaiti to take their place when they repatriate.
Job market in Kuwait
Commercial opportunities in Kuwait have traditionally centred on the country’s oil wealth, and skilled expats working in Kuwait have found themselves employed in this sector. Other opportunities exist in real estate, construction and engineering. Maintenance, repair and technician jobs are also available.
When it comes to doing business in Kuwait, finance sectors including accounting and auditing are commonly on offer, as well as sales, marketing and PR jobs.
Given the demand for international schools, educators from all over the world have found themselves teaching in Kuwait. Doctors and medical professionals could also secure employment in the healthcare sector.
Finding a job in Kuwait
With the expat labour pool expected to decrease substantially, securing employment in Kuwait could be tricky. Still, job seekers can explore various routes to find work. Many expat residents have relocated thanks to an intra-company transfer, while others have gone through a recruitment agency or relocation company that offers services in job seeking.
We also advise prospective expats to start networking. Creating a profile on an online job platform and getting connected with Kuwaiti businesses is a good way to begin. Online job portals, including Bayt.com, Monster and GulfTalent, are highly recommended. It also helps to know someone living in Kuwait and build professional relationships from there.
Expats wanting to work in Kuwait are required to have a valid work permit which is issued in conjunction with a formal offer of employment from a company in Kuwait. The work permit is sponsored and organised by the hiring company. Foreigners caught working without the proper paperwork face severe penalties, including deportation.
Employment contracts for skilled foreign workers in Kuwait usually include benefits such as a housing allowance, medical aid and annual air tickets home. Unfortunately, lucrative expat contracts are not what they used to be as the country continues to implement the Kuwaitisation plan.
Work culture in Kuwait
Arabic is the official language of Kuwait, but English is widely spoken and understood in Kuwaiti business circles. Nevertheless, expats working in Kuwait will find it advantageous to learn at least a few key phrases and greetings in Arabic.
Work culture in Kuwait is formal and largely based on Islamic principles. Appearances are important and business attire should be conservative; women should avoid wearing tight-fitting or revealing clothing. Muslim Kuwaiti associates will pray five times a day; meetings and appointments will therefore need to be arranged around prayer times and expats should show respect and patience for this custom.
The workweek in Kuwait is Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend falling on Friday and Saturday. A standard working week is 40 hours, with companies usually operating between 8.30am and 6pm, sometimes with an extended lunch break. Office hours are reduced during the holy month of Ramadan.
►For information on finding expat housing in the emirate, see Accommodation in Kuwait
"There are lots of jobs for teachers and the oil and engineer industries but you need a job before you come to Kuwait to get a visa." Keep reading our interview with Gemma.
"There is a variety, the main difference for many of the companies is the working hours, due to historic reasons and the temperature, many companies work from 7am to 3.30pm, but I must state that many Western companies do not, and working hours can be long." For more on the economic climate, read our interview with Avril Bailey.
Are you an expat living in Kuwait?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kuwait. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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