Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Memoir of an Unemployed Kuwaiti

Hello, my name is Ali Boshehri and I’m an unemployed Kuwaiti in Kuwait. I like the term unemployed as it, I believe, defines me perfectly in a country filled with ambiguous nicknames and acronyms. At a corner there is a fashionista/o, at another there is a professional photographer, and at another there is a cupcake specialist; all of which trying to fill a void of creativity established systematically by Kuwait.

I’m not here to say that I am the most creative, innovative or driven person in Kuwait nor am I indicating that my situation is an individual result of the tumultuous system of this place, but on the contrary, I am trying to highlight, through this, the hardships that youth, like me, are going through when they successfully complete their degree requirements and receive their diplomas.

Advice, here and there, from almost everybody, following the question that is always asked: “Did you get a job? What are you applying to?” The most excruciating of such questions is: “Who is your Wasta?” It is as if it is impossible to gain a good working place, matching one’s ambitions, without such personality of influence to ease the path, uncaring of the missed opportunities of others in the way that may be more qualified for such a position.

I am one of many. Many who are average Kuwaitis with good degrees, arriving from advanced societies like the United States or the United Kingdom, with high hopes of change, and great desire to conquer the system and fight for the principle of proven abilities and high potential. And then, to be stunned by those innocent questions, the unorganized government authorities/agencies around the country, or, to the politically aware, the statement of the Prime Minister about the corruption and bribe-ridden government, a Prime Minister whom is the bearer of a mere elementary school degree.

Many of my like have been unemployed for months and maybe years, compared to my humble two weeks of unemployment. I, on the other hand, may gain employment in the next week, or month, depending on the current market for Civil Engineers. But what is unemployment in Kuwait, the country of wonders? Getting a job in Kuwait doesn’t ensure employment. I can register in a company of a relative and get the governmental allowance of 750 KWD (an encouragement to Kuwaitis to work in the private sector) whilst staying in bed all morning. I can also get quick employment at a ministry and go to work every morning, only to drink tea and read the newspaper or surf Twitter. Why is the lack of effective productivity in Kuwait a surprise? Why are we stunned by the disproportionate number of expats, of different nationalities, in Kuwait if compared to the number of nationals? They do all the work and we, the Kuwaitis, sit in our luxurious desks and beautiful cars, all the while, paying the hidden tax of luxury.

I am not here to blame the Kuwaiti for the lack of productivity, because I truly know that if I was to be employed in, for example, a ministry, and try to work as hard as I can, and then to see that my work is gone unnoticed, if not, in some cases, punished, I will be like the mainstream way of living the work life, because that’s how people work. Our way of life is the direct result of a failed system, and we are only to blame for not doing anything about it, for being neutral and happy with our short-term pleasures.

The macro magnitude of the problem of unemployment in Kuwait is loud to deafening proportions, but nobody is listening or even believing. By 2020, which is in five years, we’re hitting a 157,000 wall of unemployed individuals, if the current employment system persists. In 15 years, this number is to increase to 410,000. The latter number is the number of the current Kuwaiti workforce, in its entirety, both in the public and private sector.[1] This time, last year, Kuwait had about 17,000 unemployed individuals of 2-year and 4-year degrees. And just to be clear, an unemployed individual is a person whom, in the last four weeks, has actively been seeking a job.

Anyhow, I’m bored. To the potential employers out there, consider this to be a job application. What would you want more in a Kuwaiti employee? Here I am exercising my short unemployment in average, and I’d say productive writing in a café next to a mosque in the middle of a roundabout. And that is, if and only if, the firms in the UAE or Qatar do not offer me better jobs.

And finally, coinciding with the current celebrations, I’ll put forth the famous supplication, “May Kuwait never change.”