Kuwait Kuwait

Statistical Snapshot


Kuwait’s population was estimated at 4.4 million, including 3.1 million expatriates, in 2019.[1] The population is mostly urban, and about 83 percent of the total population live in the capital, Kuwait City.[2] High immigration rates and heavy dependence on foreign labor have swung the population pyramid of Kuwait in favor of the working-age groups (15 to 64 years), which account for 75.7 percent of the total population. According to the latest data by Kuwait’s Central Statistical Bureau (CSB), total fertility rate is 1.6 children per woman, life expectancy is around 82.1 years, and levels of maternal mortality and infant mortality are around 5.4 per 100,000 and 7.43 per 1,000, respectively.[1] With a government health expenditure at 3.33 percent of GDP, out-of-pocket health expenditure (as a percent of current health expenditure) is at 12.6 percent, the third-lowest rate among Arab countries, after Oman and Qatar.[3]


Kuwait’s Human Development Index value for 2018 is 0.808, which positioned the country among the very high human development group — ranking 57 out of 189 countries and territories and the last among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The country’s value is below the average of 0.892 for countries in the very high human development group and above the averages of 0.703 for countries in Arab States.[4]


Following the adoption of substantial structural reforms to improve the business environment in 2019, Kuwait made it for the first time in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business list of the 10 most improved economies, out of 190 economies. Reforms in Kuwait mainly focused on simplifying the start of a business, digitizing the process to get electricity, facilitating access to credit, streamlining the construction permitting process, improving the quality of its land administration system, protecting minority investors and advancing trading across borders.[5]


The Kuwaiti economy relies heavily on its hydrocarbon resources, with oil constituting 88.3 percent of the country's total government revenues in 2018.[6] In the aftermath of the drop in oil prices in 2014, the authorities announced a series of fiscal and structural reforms to strengthen the role of the private sector, improve the business environment, boost employment of Kuwaitis and promote the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, and as oil prices recovered in 2017-2018, public expenditures rose by 8.7 percent,[6] and the implementation of a 5 percent Value-Added Tax (VAT) was postponed to 2021.[7]


Crude oil production rose from 2.704 million barrels per day on average during 2017 to 2.736 million barrels per day for 2018, and the increase in oil prices in 2018 to $69.78 per barrel, up from $52.43 per barrel in the previous year, have resulted in an increase in oil GDP growth from -7.2 percent to 1.3 percent. On the other hand, the non-oil growth decreased to 1.1 percent in 2018 and 1.8 percent in 2017, after reaching 3.6 percent in 2016. Consequently, real GDP growth was estimated at 1.2 percent in 2018, up from -3.5 percent in 2017.[5] The shocks to oil markets from supply glut and the effects of COVID-19 in the first half of 2020 seem certain to weigh on Kuwait’s macroeconomic outlook and finances. The IMF projects a 2.7 percent contraction of GDP for the GCC countries in 2020.[8]


In 2018, Inflation decelerated for the second year in a row to 0.6 percent, after reaching 1.5 percent in 2017 and 3.5 percent in 2016. This deceleration was a result of the deflation in housing services and the decline in transport costs.[6] In 2019, Inflation rose slightly to 1.1 percent as food and transport prices recovered. Driven by lower oil revenues and higher spending, fiscal and current account surpluses narrowed from 9 percent of GDP in 2018 to 4.7 percent of GDP in 2019 and from 14.4 percent of GDP to 8.9 percent of GDP, respectively. Additionally, growth slowed to an estimated 0.7 percent in 2019, following the contraction in oil output by 1 percent.  Overall fiscal and current account balances are estimated to turn into deficit in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak coupled by a plunge in oil prices. According to the IMF, fiscal deficit is estimated at 11.3 percent of GDP and current account deficit at 10.2 percent of GDP in 2020. Additionally, growth is expected to drop to -1.1 percent before bouncing back to 3.4 percent in 2021, the highest since 2013.[9] The government’s COVID-19 response package submitted in a draft bill in March outlined $1.6 billion in spending, ranging from full income support for nationals to loans for SMEs.[10]


According to data by CSB, the labour force participation rate for non-Kuwaitis was 82.2 percent, compared to 39.5 percent for Kuwaitis, with the majority (89.9 percent) working in the governmental and public sectors, and nationals accounting for only 4.6 percent of the total employed in the private sector. National unemployment registered 6.4 percent, compared to only 1.7 percent for non-nationals. The total unemployment rate in Kuwait registered 2.2 percent in 2017. This rate is higher among youth, reaching 15.4 percent. Additionally, women face higher unemployment rate at 5.8 percent, compared to 0.9 percent for men. This gap becomes larger among youth, with unemployment rate for young females almost triple that of young males, at 30 percent compared to 9.4 percent.[1]

This overview was last updated in May 2020. Priority is given to the latest available official data published by national statistical offices and/or public institutions.


[1] Central Statistical Bureau. 2020. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.csb.gov.kw/Default_EN [Accessed 4 May 2020].
[2] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. 2018. World Urbanization Prospects. [ONLINE] Available at:
https://population.un.org/wpp/ [Accessed 4 May 2020].
[3] World Health Organization. 2020. Global Health Observatory Data. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.who.int/gho/database/en/ [Accessed 4 May 2020].
[4] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2019. Human Development Report 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/hdr2019.pdf [Accessed 4 May 2020].
[5] The World Bank. 2019. Doing Business 2020. [ONLINE] Available at: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/688761571934946384/pdf/Doing-Business-2020-Comparing-Business-Regulation-in-190-Economies.pdf [Accessed 4 May 2020].
[6] Central bank of Kuwait. 2019. The 47th Economic Report for the year 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cbk.gov.kw/en/statistics-and-publication/publications/economic-reports [Accessed 4 May 2020].
[7] National Assembly. May 2018. Budget Committee: The government decided to postpone the application of VAT until 2021 and to expedite measures for excise tax on tobacco, energy and carbonated drinks. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.kna.kw/clt-html5/news-details.asp?id=30070 [Accessed 4 May 2020].
[8] International Monetary Fund. April 2020. World Economic Outlook Database. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2020/01/weodata/index.aspx[Accessed 4 May 2020].

[9] International Monetary Fund. April 2020. Regional Economic Outlook, Middle East and Central Asia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/REO/MECA/Issues/2020/04/15/regional-economic-outlook-middle-east-central-asia-report#MENAP [Accessed 21 May 2020]
[10] International Monetary Fund (IMF). May 2020. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19#K [Accessed 21 May 2020]

view all

Data Highlights

  • Trade has always had a significant weight in Kuwait’s economy, with international trade-to-GDP ratio moderately increasing over the last fifteen years from 86.6% in 2000 to 95% in 2016.

view all