Every year, Kuwait’s oil reserves and great opportunities attract thousands of foreigners looking to work here. Due to its small size and population, industries rely on foreign workers to fill key positions in both skilled and unskilled sectors. According to recent estimates, 70% of the country’s population comprises of expatriates and a huge percentage of the labour force participation rate is foreigners. If you get the opportunity to be employed in Kuwait, prepare for an international career boost! Before you book a one-way ticket to this wonderful land, let’s see how much you can make working here. Note that the currency used in Kuwait is the Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD), which equals 3.29 US dollars (USD) as of November 24th 2019.
What is the average salary in Kuwait? Expect an average gross salary of $50,338.73 a year, $4,194.35 a month, or $23.05 an hour. There’s no personal taxation, even for expatriates living and working here, meaning the take-home pay after tax is usually great. The Kuwaiti Dinar is also the highest-valued currency in the world, meaning more tax-free income for expatriates to send back home.
Kuwait has one of the wealthiest and fairly open economies in the world, which mainly relies on its immense oil resources. With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world at 3% and no personal income taxes, Kuwait offers an attractive job market for locals and foreigners alike. Despite the government’s efforts to become self-sufficient in terms of labour, the demand for foreign specialists isn’t likely to cease altogether. Those with good academic credit and in-demand skills are received with open arms. With that being said, relocating to another country can be challenging and expatriates will find Kuwait no different. The better prepared you are, the more successful you’ll be able to adapt. Lucky for you, I’ve created a guide full of useful information to ensure a smooth transition into the Kuwaiti job market.
Average Salary in Kuwait
If you’re keen on seeking employment in Kuwait, it’s probably best to look at salaries of specific professions you’re interested in. Kuwait is the top-paying country in western Asia for some positions. Here’s a look at the average annual gross salaries of specific job titles:
- Architect: $44,558
- IT Project Manager: $57,400
- CEO: $113,767
- General Manager: $86,692
- Hotel manager: $77,605
- Teacher: $38,944
- Lawyer: $77,107
- Human resource manager: $71,641
- Accountant: $35,341
- Cashier: $28,441
- Financial Analyst: $66,460
- Civil engineer: $45,735
- Electrical engineer: $51,799
- Nurse: $41,435
- Police officer: $40,826
- Sales representative: $32,530
- Sales manager: $77,000
- Receptionist: $27,812
- Waiter/waitress: $30,952
The salaries mentioned above are just estimates and should only be used as a guide. Salaries will vary depending on the company, whether you work for public or private sectors, duration of the contract, your work experience, the type of job, age, competition in the job market, and sometimes your nationality. Generally, salaries in this country are similar or even greater than those in western countries. In addition to basic pay, employment contracts for skilled foreign workers usually include benefits like:
- House allowance
- Car allowance
- Annual holidays
- Return air ticket
- School fees
- Bonuses or performance incentives
- End-of-contract payments
Kuwait economy is dominated by the immense oil industry. The country has around 104 million barrels of crude oil reserves, which constitute 8% of the reserves worldwide. This sector contributes around 90% of government income and close to half of the country’s GDP. Foreigners seeking employment in this country will most likely find work in this sector.
Apart from the massive oil sector, employment opportunities for expatriates also exist in manufacturing, real estate, education, construction, finance, and healthcare sectors.
Finding work in Kuwait
All expatriates need a work permit before they can be employed in Kuwait, except for those from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations. Work permits are only issued if a foreigner has a valid employment offer. The employer then acts as a sponsor and handles all the administrative work for the expat employee, including filing the visa application and opening their bank account, and is liable if the employee violates any regulations.
The job market
As mentioned earlier, about two-thirds of the labour force consists of foreign nationals. A majority of them are, however, manual workers in low-income jobs. While there are still expat employees in upper segments of the labour market, finding such jobs is not as easy as it used to be. The younger generation of Kuwaitis entering the job market are increasingly well-educated and the government is striving to offer them decent career opportunities within the country.
Even so, foreigners skilled in areas that are vital to the Kuwaiti economy will still have a good chance of getting employment. This applies particularly to those with good academic credits and professional experience in the fields of finance, marketing, business development, and sales. Engineers, especially those with skills that are relevant to the oil industry, also stand a better chance of fulfilling their dream of working in this country.
Since Kuwait borders some of the more politically unstable countries in the world, it offers a range of opportunities for security professionals as well.
The work culture
The Kuwaiti work culture is formal and largely based on Islamic principles. English is widely spoken but, although companies don’t usually require or even expect expatriates to speak Arabic, knowing some Arabic helps. After all, being able to read Arabic numerals will make grocery shopping much easier and replying to common greetings and phrases is always appreciated by the locals.
Kuwait Average Household Income
Disposable income for Kuwaiti households was last recorded at $27,500 in 2017. The census bureau in Kuwait is conducting a nationwide survey to determine the country’s median household income and expenditure for the fiscal year 2019/2020. This exercise aims to get a clearer picture of the households’ living conditions. Generally, Kuwaiti households spend 75% of monthly income, leaving only 25% for savings. Most of the money is spent on rent/mortgage, food, tobacco products, clothing, transportation & communication, entertainment, furniture, jewellery, and electronic goods.
Minimum Wage in Kuwait
Like several other countries, Kuwait has government-mandated minimum wage and no employee is to be paid less than this national minimum wage (NMW). Employees in the following sectors who are paid less than the salaries mentioned can sue their employers.
The government set the minimum wage for domestic workers at 60 KWD, which currently translates to $197.54 a month. Taking into account days off, severance pay, and holiday pay, the minimum wage comes to around 80 cents/hour or $2,754 a year. This is a significantly low pay considering the average earnings in Kuwait are around $50,338.73 a year. This goes to show the huge wage gap between the highest earners and the lowest earners.
Apart from domestic workers, the minimum wage has also been set for labourers in the private and oil sectors at 75 KWD ($246.92). This move was apparently in line with the demands from international rights organisations considering over 1.5 million people work in the private sector and a majority of them are foreign nationals.
In addition to minimum wage, labour laws specify a 12-hour working day and a weekly day off for domestic workers. On the other hand, those in the private sector work for 48 hours/week or 8 hours a day. All employees are entitled to paid annual leave of up to 30 days, as well as end-of-contract payments (usually 30 days wage for each year worked). Female employees get 70 days of paid maternity leave and can request for extra non-paid leave for up to 4 months.
Average Salary in Kuwait City
Kuwait City is the capital of Kuwait. It’s also the largest city in the country and home to over 80% of the country’s total population. Located at the heart of Kuwait, this city houses the national assembly, most government offices, and the headquarters of most local and multinational corporations. It’s considered a global city and the cultural, economic, and political centre of the emirate.
With lots of job opportunities, a good standard of living, and high salaries, it’s easy to see why many expatriates in Kuwait choose to stay and work in Kuwait City. But how much can you make working here? Well, an employee in Kuwait City should expect an average gross salary of $42,239 a year, $3,520 a month, or $19.76 an hour. Since this is just a guideline, your exact salary will depend on the employer, the type of job, type of contract, competition in the job market, and your work experience among other things.
The job market
Many foreigners move to Kuwait City to work in the massive oil industry. Other sectors that employ high numbers of foreigners in this city include healthcare, telecommunications, finance, and IT.
As in many expat destinations, there are plenty of opportunities for English teachers in Kuwait City and the country at large. The demand is high particularly at the universities, in secondary schools, in private language schools, as well as private international schools. Private lessons are also popular, though they are usually a means for regular teachers to supplement their income. There’s also demand for translators, though this is usually on a short-term or part-time basis.
Cost of living in Kuwait
When considering salaries, you also need to take into account the cost of living. This will help you determine if you can afford a decent lifestyle. Kuwait generally has the highest cost of living in the Arab world with prices similar to those in most European countries. Here’s what it will cost you living in Kuwait:
Some companies offer free accommodation, but if you have to rent, the cost will vary depending on the type of accommodation, location, and facilities offered. Shared apartments range from $263-495 per month. An unfurnished one and three-bedroom apartment will average at $889/month and $1,745/month respectively in the city centre. Property for sale and mortgages are also available to expatriates in Kuwait.
Food and grocery
The cost of food in Kuwait can be reasonable, but only for locally produced fruits and vegetables. Fish, seafood, meat, and bread are also not on the expensive side. But since Kuwait practically has no arable land, it imports over 95% of its food, which can be quite costly. The cost of groceries can average to $450, $750, and $1,000 per month for singles, couples, and a family of four respectively. The cost of eating out is just as expensive but will vary depending on what establishments you visit and how often.
Most expatriates tend to drive their cars given the cheap gas prices at around $0.32/litre. You’ll, however, need to budget for maintenance, repair, and insurance costs. Alternatively, you can use public transportation to get around Kuwait. A one-way ticket on local transport is about $0.82 while a monthly pass average at $41.15. Taxi fares start at $3.29 and each km is also $3.29.
This can be pretty expensive if you’re into designer labels. The monthly cost of clothing averages at around $150 for singles, $300 for couples, and $450 for a couple with kids.
While these are just the common expenses in every household, there are several other expenses you may have to budget for depending on your needs and lifestyle. This includes education, childcare, entertainment, telecommunication, utilities, and health insurance among others.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.