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Finding Employment

Kuwait - Finding Employment

Two thirds of the population in Kuwait have moved there from elsewhere. Roughly nine out of ten working Kuwaiti citizens are employed in the public sector. If you are moving to Kuwait to work in the private sector you are likely to find your workplace is a melting pot of different nationalities, languages and cultures. However, the government is taking steps to reduce immigrant numbers, both by restricting access to employment for newcomers, and by encouraging people to leave. This is supported by much of the national mood.

Before entering the country, make sure that you have obtained the correct visa and work permit. You cannot live there unless you have work, and you cannot work there unless you have obtained the correct documentation. The penalties are serious and include imprisonment. As it takes several weeks to obtain all the documentation, you should take action to secure it as soon as you know you are going to work in Kuwait.

Many expats will be offered work in Kuwait through their employers or allied businesses. In those cases an agent will often help with the documentation process.

For those seeking work in Kuwait, there are a large number of websites available. Sites recruiting highly skilled specialist professionals include Reed, Bayt.com, and MonsterGulf. The website for Indeed advertises lower skilled job vacancies, but please be aware that competition for these vacancies will be tough.

The recruitment websites are useful to assess average salaries for various professions and skillsets in Kuwait. They also give a good indication of the types of experience and skills which are in demand.

Some vacancies are designated for male or female applicants only, and in some professions it will be assumed that only men will apply for the role. This will often have a bearing on the team in which the vacancy has occurred, as interaction between men and women who are not married or closely related to each other is strongly discouraged in Kuwait. This may be unpalatable to western job hunters, but it is an important and normal part of Kuwaiti life which flags up issues to be considered before heading off for a new life there.

For those who wish to foster business links between Kuwait and the UK, the London based not for profit organisation ABCC - the Arab British Chamber of Commerce is there to help. Since 1975 it has been offering a range of services including certification of trade documents, translation services, research and advice about a range of trade and regulatory matters, training and conference events including networking and cultural training, and relevant publications.

Many schools in Kuwait, especially the International Schools in Kuwait City, actively recruit well qualified and experienced teachers from abroad. Many of them offer competitive tax-free salaries of $35,000-$50,000 plus accommodation, medical insurance, and some contribution to airfares so you can visit friends and family back home.

The generous package allows expat teachers to gather savings while they enjoy living and working in a new environment. A high value is placed on education both by Kuwaiti citizens and by expats living in the state, which is known to increase a child’s engagement with learning. The schools have a multicultural intake and can develop a teacher’s professional skills.

Usually schools ask for a covering letter, a CV, a completed application form and references. You should normally hold a TEFL or TESOL teaching qualification and have a year or two of teaching experience. Employers prefer candidates who also hold a bachelor’s degree, and those who are native English speakers.

These vacancies are advertised on school websites. Vacancies can also be found through schemes such as GoOverseas and TeachAway. General recruitment websites such as Reed regularly include teaching vacancies. New employees are often welcomed into schools twice a year, and whilst people do occasionally stay long term, most expat teachers will have returned home or moved on to a new country within five years.

The unemployment rate in Kuwait measures the number of people actively looking for work as a percentage of the available labour force. It is extremely low by international standards. At its highest following a crisis in 2011 it was 3.6% and has continued to fall again since then. In comparison, the UK’s highest recorded rate was 12% and in the US it was 10.8%. However, the government takes the issue of unemployment seriously. They are trying to diversify the economy, which is highly dependant on the oil sector, and increase the skill levels of the native citizens to reduce unemployment levels further.

To live and work successfully in Kuwait requires you to understand the culture and traditions, and to adapt your behaviour accordingly.

Central to Kuwaiti culture is the religion of Islam. It is the religion most native families practice, and is the only religion schools are permitted to teach. Expat families are allowed to continue their own religious practices in private as long as they respect the Islamic principles of the society they are living in.

Prayers take place five times a day in the mosque, at home, at work, or by the roadside. During the month of Ramadan all Muslims will fast from dawn to sunset. The laws forbidding the public consumption of food, drink, cigarettes, music and dancing in daylight during Ramadan also apply to ex-patriots and those who are not Muslim.

The State of Kuwait has a zero tolerance towards alcohol and illegal drugs, even for small personal amounts. The punishment for an offender is severe and may include a heavy fine, removal of a driving license, imprisonment, and deportation. Do not become involved with the making, importation or sale of alcohol or illegal drugs, and do not use them. Drunken behaviour in public will lead to police charges, driving with a tiny amount of alcohol in your bloodstream can lead to imprisonment, whilst selling illegal drugs of any quantity can lead to life imprisonment.

It is illegal at all times and in all circumstances to have a sexual relationship outside of marriage. You may not cohabit with someone or share a hotel bedroom with them. This law applies even if you have arrived from elsewhere and regardless of the relationship you may have had with the person in another country. Pregnancy outside of marriage means both partners face a real risk of imprisonment and legal registration of the birth becomes very difficult.

Given this context, be aware that open displays of affection are not welcome. They should never exceed a married couple holding hands. Men should never touch women if they are not married, or be alone in a room together even if it is a work environment.

Young women from western cultures, including school children, should be taught not to be friendly with men or boys at school. Smiles and friendly engagement in talk may easily be misinterpreted as it is not part of normal Kuwaiti culture for a young woman to behave like this.

Meanwhile men should avoid talking to women in public unless it is appropriate to the work or family situation in which you find yourself. Similarly, you must always obtain a woman’s permission before taking a photograph which includes her.

Dancing outside the privacy of your home is an indecent activity and must be considered when attending social functions.

Although the wearing of Islamic clothing is not mandatory in Kuwait, what you wear should be conservative and modest. Any infringements will lead to your removal from work, restaurants, parks and shopping malls. Through conservative eyes, the body would ideally be covered with only hands and face showing. Women should wear a skirt well below the knee and must never bear their shoulders or torso.

If you wish to drive when living or working in Kuwait, you must be over 18 years of age and carry a valid driving license with you at all times. Transferring your UK driving license to a Kuwaiti one is a complex and expensive process. Firstly your DVLA license must be notarised in the UK, then legalised at the Foreign and Commonweath Office (FCO), attested at the Kuwaiti Embassy based in London, then attested at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The license must be translated into Arabic at your own expense using a translation service. You must then visit the Kuwaiti Traffic Directorate, bringing your UK driving license, translation and other supporting documents.

Always wear a seatbelt whilst driving. Offences to avoid whilst driving in Kuwait include speeding, racing, tailgating and lane jumping. Never use a mobile phone while you are driving. The roads in Kuwait are monitored by a large number of speed cameras and the police. Fines are heavy and you can also have your car impounded. Road rage will lead to imprisonment and deportation.

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