Kuwait Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Like many countries on the Persian Gulf, Kuwait's large oil reserves have changed its ethnic makeup. In this lesson, we take a look at the various ethnic groups present in Kuwait.

A Diverse Country

You probably expect most of the people living in a country to be from that country, right? Sure, there are some exceptions. For example, you probably don't expect anybody in Vatican City to be born there. But what about a country that is larger and has a population in the millions?

If you were to expect to find mainly Kuwaitis in Kuwait, you'd be surprised. Only around one third of this country's total population of four million hold Kuwaiti citizenship, while many live in Kuwait as guest workers. In this lesson, we'll look at the various ethnic groups that live in Kuwait to better understand the diverse makeup if this unique country.


There are a bit over 1.4 million Kuwaitis in the country, and Kuwaiti people make up about 31% of the country's total population. According to census records, the percentage of Kuwait citizens has remained fairly consistent since since the mid-1970s. But it wasn't always that way. Between the 1940s and 1980s, Kuwait experienced a population boom due to an abundance of oil and steadily increasing oil prices. This attracted a number of guest workers from around the world and caused the population to boom from about 250,000 people to 750,000 people between 1960 and 1970.

Arab Population

Second in terms of population, Arabs make up about 28% of the total population in Kuwait. Many who identify as Arab come from various regions of the world to work and choose to stay only temporarily. Others choose to expatriate, or live outside of one's home country, more permanently.

Historically, people from Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria have done much of the professional work in Kuwait, while many Egyptians worked in the legal sector. In fact, an Egyptian jurist actually helped to write one of Kuwait's constitutions! That said, as Kuwaiti citizens increasingly attend university, this number is starting to shrink. Instead, a number of new Arab arrivals in Kuwait have tended to be refugees from unrest in Iraq and, more recently, Syria.

Asian Population

A significant chunk of the total population of Kuwait, as well as the majority of its foreign population, comes from South Asia. As is common throughout the Middle East, workers are hired from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh to do a great deal of the labor. This is especially true for fields like construction, where migrant workers make up large majorities of the workforce. South Asian women are also commonly employed as domestic workers in households across the country.

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