Kuwait eyes higher minimum wage after workers strike
Thursday, 31 July 2008

REUTERS, KUWAIT- Inflation-hit Kuwait is considering raising the minimum wage to 40 dinars ($151) after Bangladesh workers staged a strike demanding better pay, state news agency KUNA reported.

The Kuwaiti government reached an agreement with the workers on Monday to end a three-day strike over pay and working conditions against a backdrop of soaring inflation, which exceeded 11 percent in April and May.

Some striking workers said they were getting paid as little as 8 dinars per month.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour would submit a recommendation to cabinet to raise the minimum monthly wage to 40 dinars, KUNA quoted Minister Bader al-Duwaila as saying late on Tuesday, without giving the current level.

Kuwait, the world's seventh-biggest oil exporter, is the third-richest Arab country, with per capita gross domestic product of $30,188 in 2006, according to London-based Middle East Economic Digest.

Hundreds of mainly Bangladeshi cleaners and workers staged demonstrations in the Gulf oil producer. The strike turned violent, with cars overturned, and was dispersed by police.

Any change in the minimum wage would apply to current and future contracts, KUNA quoted the minister as saying.

Struggling to fight inflation while insulating its population from rising prices, the government has raised wages of Kuwaiti citizens twice by a total of 170 dinars this year.

Gulf Arab countries rely heavily on foreign workers as they invest windfall revenues from a more than six-fold rise in oil revenues since 2002 to diversify their economies. Expatriates comprise two thirds of Kuwait's 3.2-million population.

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