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Kuwait

VitalStatistics

Population: 3,524,000
Monetary unit: Kuwaiti dinar (KD)
Capital city: Kuwait (city)
Major languages: Arabic
Major religions: Muslim 74%, of which Sunni 59%, Shi(i 15%; Christian 13%, of which Roman Catholic 9%; Hindu 10%; Buddhist 3%
Ethnic composition: Arab 57%, of which Kuwaiti 35%; Bedouin 4%; non-Arab (primarily Asian) 39%
Age breakdown: under 15, 24.3%; 15–29, 26.8%; 30–44, 34.2%; 45–59, 11.6%; 60–74, 2.7%; 75–84, 0.3%; 85 and over, 0.1%
Life expectancy: male 76.4 years; female 78.7 years
Education: Percentage of population age 10 and over having: no formal schooling: illiterate 6.2%, literate 37.9%; primary education 12.7%; lower secondary 20.8%; upper secondary 11.7%; some higher 4.1%; completed undergraduate 6.6%
Urban/Rural split: urban 98.3%; rural 1.7%
Income per household (USD):
Broadband internet users (%):

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Introduction

Kuwait may only have a population of 3 million, just a third of whom are nationals, but it is also home to 10% of the world’s oil reserves. That, together with its location between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, makes it a very important country in terms of regional politics and global business.

Until fairly recently most multinationals operated in Kuwait out of Saudi Arabia or the UAE, and the same was true of their PR agencies. There was little local presence, but this is changing. Fadi Matar, corporate communications leader at petrochemical firm EQUATE, says: “The Kuwait PR scene has evolved quite dramatically over the last two to three years with new global players setting up bases here.”

He continues: “Furthermore, as Kuwait now has a more active role across the Co-Operation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, many regional companies are making greater use of PR. Public affairs in particular is becoming important. We still lag behind the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but the

 

gap is getting smaller.”

Mohamed Menessy, group operations manager of Al-Ghunaim Trading Company, points to the recent improvements in measurement and evaluation as evidence of a developing industry. “Thanks to the recent arrival of media research and poll-gathering companies we’re much better able to measure influence, traffic and effectiveness,” he says. “Whether it’s brand mentions, media placements, site traffic, social media campaign participation, direct sales or otherwise, it’s now much easier to see how well a campaign is working.”

As a small country where news travels fast and reputation is important Kuwait is ideally suited to PR. A major challenge is fostering and retaining talent, which all too easily disappears overseas. Yet as the Kuwaiti PR industry continues to grow in terms of size and professionalism we can expect to see more of those bright young PR professionals choosing to stay in Kuwait.

 

 

Working There

In Association With:

Fabric Recruitment

Kuwait allows plenty of foreign workers into its territory, but it’s almost always on a temporary basis. It’s rare for expats to be allowed to become permanent citizens.

The Kuwaiti government is very conscious of the need to provide decent career opportunities for its own citizens. Having made huge investments in education and social welfare, the hope is that eventually Kuwait will become almost self-sufficient in terms of labour.

Red Tape

Unless you’re a GCC national or an expatriate with authorised residence in another GCC state, it’s fairly complicated to gain entry to Kuwait and the appropriate permissions and visas must be in place before you arrive.

Foreign nationals should ideally have a firm offer of employment before arriving. It’s possible to enter Kuwait on a tourist visa and look for work on arrival, but you’ll need to have extremely good qualifications and professional experience to stand any real chance of success.

 

Expats who are relocating for a specific job will need a sponsor - normally your employer - who will vouch for you during your time in the country.

It’s their responsibility to organise your work and residence visas, bank account and rental accommodation contract.

You’ll also be required to undergo medical tests to prove that you’re free from infectious diseases and that you don’t have HIV/AIDS.

Work and residence visas are usually renewed on a three-year cycle.

 

Costs

The local currency is the Kuwaiti Dinar (KD) and it’s the highest value currency in the world. The KD is linked to the dollar and the current exchange rates (Nov 2011) are:  1KD = US$3.62 or GBP2.24.

Most foreign nationals choose to move to Kuwait because it offers the opportunity to earn a much higher salary than in their home country. However, you’ll need to negotiate a great employment package if you want to get the most from your earnings.

Expat employment packages often include the following:
• Accommodation
Many employers provide a house or flat, or will give you an allowance to help with rental costs.
• Car
You may be provided with a company car or you may be allocated a certain amount of money to help with the running costs of a vehicle.
• School fees
Fees for international schools can vary. So, if your employment package contains an education allowance it’s vital to make sure it’s sufficient to cover the cost of the school you’ve chosen for your child.
• Annual holidays
Annual leave varies quite widely from 28 days every two years to 42 days or more a year.
• Return air fares
Some employers will pay for you to fly back to your home country once or twice a year.
In recent years it’s become more common for employers to simply pay a salary that’s large enough to cover all the expenses mentioned above.

Indemnity bonus

At the end of an employment contract, foreign workers are awarded ‘indemnity pay’. Despite how it sounds, this is nothing to do with insurance and is actually more like an end of contract bonus that’s calculated according to your basic salary and your time in the country.

If you’ve worked in Kuwait for a long time, this could be a significant amount of money.
Indemnity scales usually amount to between 15 and 20 days of basic pay per year of employment for the first three years and a month’s salary per year of employment for the time after that.

Accommodation

As an expat, you have no choice but to rent a property as foreign nationals are not allowed to own land or property in Kuwait. Thankfully, there’s lots of choice and the process is fairly straightforward.

Obviously, rental costs vary depending on where you want to live and the type of property you’re looking for.

Average prices for unfurnished accommodation are shown below.

Type of Accommodation Monthly Rent (in US$)
1 bedroom apartment 750–1,000
2 bedroom apartment 1,000–1,500
3 bedroom apartment 1,500–1,800
2/3 bedroom villa 1,800–2,250
4+ bedroom villa 2,250+

Utilities

Water and air-conditioning are usually charged separately as part of your electricity bill. If there's a communal gas tank, the price of gas is usually included in your rent.

Otherwise, you can buy individual gas bottles.
You may also have to pay a local tax that covers the cost of refuse collection and road maintenance in your area but this cost is normally the responsibility of the property owner, not the tenant.

Income Tax 

Personal income is not currently taxed in Kuwait. However there are proposals in place that mean this may change in the not-too-distant future.

Culture Snapshot

Kuwait is the third-largest oil producer in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Since the Iraqi invasion of 1990/1991, the country and its economy has gradually recovered, and the recent oil price increases are allowing for further expansion in this rapidly developing and increasingly wealthy country.

Religion

Learning to understand and respect Islam and it’s laws and customs is key to settling into life in Kuwait.

Alcohol and pork are both illegal for Muslims and are extremely difficult to get hold of, even for non-
Muslims; public displays of affection are taboo; homosexuality is illegal; the left hand is considered unclean; and clothing should be kept conservative when in public. This is particularly important for women.

Oil

As you might expect, oil production and the associated industries account for nearly three quarters of Kuwait’s gross domestic product. Kuwait has huge reserves of oil and an estimated 1.8 million barrels are produced every day.

As a result of this wealth, the cities are a spectacular mix of old and new with modern architecture co-existing with traditional houses and ancient wind-towers. 
 

Activities

Quite apart from enjoying the blue skies and sunny weather, there are also plenty of other ways to entertain yourself in Kuwait.

There are numerous cafés and restaurants to choose from, play areas for children, museums, well-tended parks, galleries, water parks and endless shopping opportunities in modern malls as well as traditional markets.

Those who find themselves missing Western comforts will be pleased to find many chain restaurants and coffee shops in evidence on the high streets.

Smoking a shisha (hubbly bubbly) pipe outside one of the many cafés is a experience not to be missed. As is having dinner in the impressive Kuwait Towers (the three towers by the sea with water storage).

Clothing

Many Kuwaiti men wear a dishdasha, a floor length robe which is put on over the head. This basic garment has changed very little in the last few hundred years.

When in public, most local women cover their clothing with an aba, a black cloak that covers the whole body. Bedouin women may also wear a burka: a short black veil that covers the entire face.

The Islamic headscarf, or hijab, that conceals the hair is not a Kuwaiti garment but is often worn by female Muslim expats.

However, it’s not unusual to see locals wearing more revealing clothing. In particular, Kuwaiti malls are full of young people in shorts and tight clothing. Along with Dubai, Kuwait is one the few Muslim regions where it’s possible to wear shorts and skirts that finish above the knee.

Women

The majority of expats working in Kuwait are male. Wives of expats may often find a restriction in their passport or visa that forbids them from working.

However, this idea is changing gradually and women are becoming more and more accepted in the workplace. Arab women have worked in teaching and nursing for some time, but they’re increasingly also found in other fields such as finance, medicine, advertising, law and tourism.

Many expats report finding it extremely easy to make friends with other expats and say that these relationships provide a source of community and comfort that helps them to settle in and cope with the cultural differences.

All local costs/regulations correct as of November 2011. Fabric and PRWeek endeavour to provide the correct information but accept no liability.

Tim Wilkinson

MyMove

Tim Wilkinson

Director of communications, Office of the Kuwaiti Prime Minister

The biggest asset alongside your experience and skills is a positive mental attitude towards your new location. Be like Jim Carrey's character in 'Yes Man' and say yes to as many new experiences as you can.

Here are my top ten tips for living and working overseas:

1.If you have a family make sure they support the move and want to live overseas as much as you do.

2.Go on a site visit together ahead of taking up the new role. We did this before we moved to Dubai,Hong Kong and Kuwait and as a result we both knew pretty much what to expect and were able to plan ahead accordingly.

3.Make sure you can live well enough for local cond itions not to impede a happy home life and a successful work life.

4.Find some people you like and make friends quickly,especially with locals. Kuwaitis are very welcoming,hospitable and worldly and like anyone appreciate a genuine interest in their

country. Kuwait is the only democracy in the Gulf,has a free and vibrant media and a culture of open political debate.Discussing politics is a national pastime and a good way to learn,test your local knowledge and engage with people.

5.Be curious about your new home and explore its history,culture,politics in the early days.Learn some of the language if you can.Travel widely in and around your new host country for fun and to build and strengthen local knowledge. Kuwait is fantastically well positioned as a regional hub so popping up to Beirut or Istanbul or down to Oman or the Emirates for the weekend is extremely easy and comonplace.

6.Trust the knowledge of your local team and couple international best practice with local insights. My team in Kuwait is overwhelmingly local,amazingly bright,well educated and connected to the local scene. It's their planning and execution that make our work effective.

7.Encourage your partner to get a job if he or she has travelled with you.

8.Show your new colleagues that you have skills and experien ces that are valuable and unique and share them generously with the local team whenever you can. On the flip side you will also learn a tremendous amount from your local colleagues which is one of the most rewarding parts of any overseas posting
and is certainly true for me in Kuwait.

 9.If you have children who make the move with you take time to understand their new lives and help them overcome any transition issues. Kuwait has a fantastic climate and consequently there are lots of outdoor activities for kids and families from desert exploration to a plethora of watersports to traditional western team sports.

10.Make sure your personal finances,health care, insurance,pension are well managed and taken care of before you leave.

Media

Kuwait has an extensive media landscape. There are 17 daily newspapers, three of which are English. The key ones are Al Watan, Al Qabas, Al Rai, Al Seyassah, Al Anbaa, Al Jarida, Arab Times, Kuwait Times and Al Watan Daily. The broadcast media in Kuwait is owned, controlled and financed by the government.

42% of Kuwaitis are online, and Menessy at Al-Ghunaim Trading highlights the growing importance of social media. “In addition to TV and radio, press kits and press releases, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow us to reach influencers in ways never before possible,” he says.

Major Brands

The leading brands in Kuwait are in the finance, oil and gas, and telecommunications sectors. Important finance companies are the National Bank of Kuwait, Burgan Bank, Gulf Bank, and the Commercial Bank of Kuwait. EQUATE, Kuwait Petroleum Company, lead the way in the oil and gas sector, and Wataniya Telecom, Zain and Viva are the most notable telecommunications

 players. With 72% of the population under the age of 30[1] education is an important sector and the University of Kuwait is a major brand.

Jazeera Airways is reaching out to financial analysts through webcasts, quarterly information packs, and other communication tools and

tactics. Wataniya Telecom is attracting plaudits for reaching out to its audience through events, social media, and really strong engagement across various platforms. Finally, Diet Care has built its brand solely through corporate social responsibility.

Agencies

The main agencies in Kuwait are TBWA\RAAD\BCOMAD, Hill + Knowlton Strategies, Weber Shandwick , Asda'a Burson-Marsteller, Memac Ogilvy PR, TRAACS and Bensirri Public Relations. All are global or regional groups apart from the last.

Bensirri launched three years ago, and has managed to defy the expectations of its better resourced and more established competitors to pick up some important clients.

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