Fanack Home / Kuwait / Society, Media & Culture / Society / Social Inequality

Social Inequality in Kuwait

Kuwaiti shopping mall

According to social anthropologist Anh Nga Longva, one of the most astute observers of contemporary Kuwaiti society, Kuwaiti society as a whole has been raised to a higher material level with the coming of oil. The age-old class differences have not been erased in the process, because a new underclass, consisting of migrant workers, has simply been added beneath the whole existing structure of pre-oil Kuwaiti society. With the coming of independence, the subordinate position of the latter group was formalised by nationality laws. A practically impassable boundary has thus been created between ‘citizens’ – those lucky inhabitants who acquired full citizen rights, including all material and immaterial benefits of the new welfare state – and the less fortunate ‘non-citizens’, who were left with limited civic rights and economic opportunities.

Because the nation’s citizens have always viewed the majority of non-citizens as a cultural and political threat, their presence has served to soften and partly to cover up the social, ethnic and sectarian divisions within the citizen group itself. The presence of a large group of ‘foreign’ inhabitants without full rights of citizenship has thus helped keep pre-oil social structures and divisions in place. Again according to Longva, it may even have hindered the emancipation of local women, for the perceived threat from large numbers of foreigners with ‘loose morals’ has rationalized the old patriarchal notion that decent local women are in constant need of protection – and thus oversight – by their male relatives. Likewise, because most citizens seem to agree that the nation’s demographic balance should be tipped in their favour in the near future, the image of Kuwaiti women as valuable but passive biological reproducers has been reinforced, to the detriment of a more modern view of women as valuable and active economic assets.

© Copyright Notice

Please contact us in case of omissions concerning copyright-protected work. The acquired copyright protected images used on/as featured image of this page are: YASSER AL-ZAYYAT ©AFP

COVID-19 UPDATE

Get the latest update on the Coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East and North Africa.

Regional Update

"Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hatred, and hatred leads to violence.
This is the equation."

IBN RUSHD/AVERROES (1126 – 1198)

We are a Dutch not for profit organisation (NGO), financed solely by individuals who share our belief in the importance of publishing and disseminating reliable, unbiased information on the Middle East & North Africa region. To represent the voice of the region’s people, we carefully echo the region’s heartbeat by offering fact-checked and therefore credible information.

Your support is greatly appreciated and helpful!