Career Challenges Kuwaiti Youth Face
By Sheetal S. Swamy
Career development is a lifelong process that helps manage life, learning, and work. It involves developing skills and knowledge that enable an individual to make well-planned decisions about their education, training and career choices. Career development often begins from the elementary level where one can explore different career opportunities. With the help of assessments and proper professional guidance, one can determine their strengths and capabilities, and work toward achieving goals and dreams. This process not only benefits individuals, but also helps with the country’s economic growth and bringing balance to various business sectors.
In Kuwait, career development is a relatively new concept. Upon completing high school, young people tend to select college majors without taking into consideration what they are good at or what is needed for the job market. Most young Kuwaiti nationals apply for scholarships through the Private Universities Council, Kuwait (PUC). The PUC releases a list of majors each semester and allots scholarships according to set quotas. Due to this structure, the young nationals may not receive a scholarship in their desired major causing them to proceed with scholarship in an undesirable major. There is no guide or source to help these students examine what professions are needed for the local market and which study options exist related to each field. In 2017, the PUC conducted research on what is needed in the market. Most universities in Kuwait primarily offer majors in business administration and engineering, with limited choices in arts. There is only one liberal arts university in Kuwait.
Public vs. Private Sector Choices
Upon completing a bachelor’s degree, most Kuwaiti nationals tend to seek and find employment in the public sector, rather than the private sector. Studies have suggested that there are two major challenges in the employment and hiring of Kuwaiti citizens. First, there is wage disparity between the two sectors. When seeking employment, Kuwaiti nationals typically consider salary, job security and reasonable working hours. The public sector offers each of these benefits, along with longer holidays. To attract nationals into the private sector, the government provides financial incentives to individuals and has required that companies hire a set percentage of nationals into their workforce. However, due to the high expectations of Kuwaiti nationals, the private sector companies are struggling to fulfill their quotas and are forced to employ expatriates with lesser salaries and benefits. Currently, the total percentage of Kuwaitis in the national workforce stands at 78% in the public sector, compared to 19.5% in the private sector (“Number of Kuwaitis”, 2017, p.3). The resulting dependence on “guest workers” in Kuwait has led to the employment of 2.8 million expatriates in a local population of 1.3 million citizens (Gulseven, 2015, p. 13)
The second employment challenge tends to be a mismatch between the needs of the businesses and required job skills. There is a need for vocationally skilled labor; however, Kuwaiti nationals choose to major in less technical fields that are not of high demand in a competitive labor market. Due to this, there is an over saturation of national employees in fields such as business, marketing, and engineering, to name a few. There is also an over saturation in the food business, as many young nationals delve into entrepreneurship in this sector.
With the need to bridge the gaps, the Manpower and Government Restructuring Program (MGRP) Kuwait has taken the initiative to help young Kuwaiti nationals with strategic career development. Utilizing certain assessment tools, they hope to be able to guide young nationals in assessing their strengths and skills. There is a need to enhance communication between the youth and MGRP, thus calling on the support of various universities to steer in this direction. However, these assessment tools are limited to assisting in terms of career placement and not helping the youth in their decisions in choosing suitable majors that would complement their growth as vibrant individuals during their learning years. It is important to identify and utilize tools that will help boost their confidence, experience growth and improve their skills. There are various types of assessments available in this regard such as personality assessments, skills test, intelligence tests and so on. One or a combination of these assessments may help build and move the youth in this direction.
Investing in its young population through career development during high school years will greatly benefit Kuwait. This promotion of wholesome development of the young generation supports movement towards betterment and economic growth of the nation.
Gulseven, O. (Autumn 2015). Challenges to Employing Kuwaitis in the Private Sector. Labor Market Dynamics in the GCC States, p. 13-15
Number of Kuwaitis in the private sector down from 21.5 to 19.5 pc (2017, April 24), Arab Times, p. 3
Nyatyowa, L. (2017, June 19). 4 Reasons Why Personal Development Should Be a Priority
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Sheetal S. Swamy is a Career Coordinator at the Alumni and Career Services department at the American University of Kuwait. Sheetal has earned her Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Mumbai and Master in Business Administration (HR) from Sikkim Manipal University. Sheetal has over 10 years of experience, varying from customer service, recruitment, and administration. She is a certified Career Development Facilitator and in eGrades Psychometric Assessment through Oscar Murphy Life Strategists Pvt. Ltd. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Timmins on Monday 10/01/2018 at 09:59 PM
Thanks for writing this article - it's fascinating to hear about the challenges faced in Kuwait and the work being done to support strategic career development for citizens - it sounds like the MGRP is doing important work.