country profile - KUWAIT
Background: Britain oversaw foreign relations and defense for the ruling Kuwaiti AL-SABAH dynasty from 1899 until independence in 1961. Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led, UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that liberated Kuwait in four days. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91. The AL-SABAH family has ruled since returning to power in 1991 and reestablished an elected legislature that in recent years has become increasingly assertive. The country witnessed the historic election in 2009 of four women to its National Assembly. Amid the 2010-11 uprisings and protests across the Arab world, stateless Arabs, known as bidun, staged small protests in February and March 2011 demanding citizenship, jobs, and other benefits available to Kuwaiti nationals. Youth activist groups - supported by opposition legislators - rallied repeatedly in 2011 for the prime minister's dismissal amid allegations of widespread government corruption. Demonstrators forced the prime minister to resign in late 2011. In late 2012, Kuwait witnessed unprecedented protests in response to the Amir's changes to the electoral law by decree reducing the number of votes per person from four to one. The opposition, led by a coalition of Sunni Islamists, tribalists, some liberals, and myriad youth groups, largely boycotted legislative elections in 2012 and 2013 ushering in legislatures more amenable to the government's agenda. Since 2006, the Amir has dissolved the National Assembly on five occasions (the Constitutional Court annulled the Assembly in June 2012 and again in June 2013) and shuffled the cabinet over a dozen times, usually citing political stagnation and gridlock between the legislature and the government.
geography  
Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
Area: total: 17,818 sq km
land: 17,818 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Land boundaries: total: 475 km
border countries (2): Iraq 254 km, Saudi Arabia 221 km
Coastline: 499 km
Climate: dry desert; intensely hot summers; short, cool winters
Natural resources: petroleum, fish, shrimp, natural gas
people  
Population: 2,788,534
note: Kuwait's Public Authority for Civil Information estimates the country's total population to be 3,996,899 for 2014, with immigrants accounting for almost 69% (July 2015 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 25.32% (male 367,176/female 338,883)
15-24 years: 15.21% (male 233,306/female 190,903)
25-54 years: 52.32% (male 924,103/female 534,769)
55-64 years: 4.82% (male 76,707/female 57,663)
65 years and over: 2.33% (male 30,681/female 34,343) (2015 est.)
Median age: total: 29 years
male: 30.2 years
female: 27 years (2015 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.62%
note: this rate reflects a return to pre-Gulf crisis immigration of expatriates (2015 est.)
Birth rate: 19.91 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate: 2.18 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Net migration rate -1.58 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.22 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.73 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.33 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.41 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
Nationality: noun: Kuwaiti(s)
adjective: Kuwaiti
Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 31.3%, other Arab 27.9%, Asian 37.8%, African 1.9%, other 1.1% (includes European, North American, South American, and Australian) (2013 est.)
Religions: Muslim (official) 76.7%, Christian 17.3%, other and unspecified 5.9%
note: represents the total population; about 69% of the population consists of immigrants (2013 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely spoken
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.3%
male: 96.5%
female: 95.8% (2015 est.)
government  
Country name: conventional long form: State of Kuwait
conventional short form: Kuwait
local long form: Dawlat al Kuwayt
local short form: Al Kuwayt
Government type: constitutional emirate
Capital: name: Kuwait City
geographic coordinates: 29 22 N, 47 58 E
time difference: UTC+3
Administrative divisions: 6 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Ahmadi, Al 'Asimah, Al Farwaniyah, Al Jahra', Hawalli, Mubarak al Kabir
Independence: 19 June 1961 (from UK)
National holiday: National Day, 25 February (1950)
Legal system: mixed legal system consisting of English common law, French civil law, and Islamic religious law
Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal; note - males in the military or police are by law not allowed to vote; all voters must have been citizens for 20 years
Executive branch: chief of state: Amir SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (since 29 January 2006); Crown Prince NAWAF al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (born 25 June 1937)
head of government: Prime Minister JABIR AL-MUBARAK al-Hamad al-Sabah (since 30 November 2011); First Deputy Prime Minister SABAH Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah; Deputy Prime Ministers KHALD al-Jarrah al-Sabah, MUHAMMAD AL-KHALID al-Hamad al-Sabah, Abdulmohsen MUDEJ
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, approved by the amir
elections/appointments: amir chosen from within the ruling family, confirmed by the National Assembly; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the amir
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Majlis al-Umma (65 seats; 50 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 15 ex-officio members - cabinet ministers - appointed by the prime minister; members serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held 27 July 2013 (next to be held in July 2017)
election results: voter turnout 52%; seats won - pro-government 30, liberals 9, Shiites 8, Sunni 3
Judicial branch: highest court(s): Constitutional Court (consists of 5 judges); Supreme Court or Court of Cassation (organized into several circuits, each with 5 judges)
judge selection and term of office: all Kuwaiti judges appointed by the Amir upon recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, a consultative body comprised of Kuwaiti judges and Ministry of Justice officials
subordinate courts: High Court of Appeal; Court of First Instance; Summary Court
Political parties and leaders: none; formation of political parties is in practice illegal but is not forbidden by law
Political pressure groups and leaders: other: Islamists; merchants; political groups; secular liberals and pro-governmental deputies; Shia activists; tribal groups
International organization participation: ABEDA, AfDB (nonregional member), AFESD, AMF, BDEAC, CAEU, CD, FAO, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, Paris Club (associate), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a black trapezoid based on the hoist side; design, which dates to 1961, based on the Arab revolt flag of World War I
communications  
Telephones - fixed lines: total subscriptions: 490,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 18 (2014 est.)
Telephones - mobile cellular: total: 7.6 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 277 (2014 est.)
Telephone system: general assessment: the quality of service is excellent
domestic: new telephone exchanges provide a large capacity for new subscribers; trunk traffic is carried by microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and open-wire and fiber-optic cable; a mobile-cellular telephone system operates throughout Kuwait, and the country is well supplied with pay telephones
international: country code - 965; linked to international submarine cable Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG); linked to Bahrain, Qatar, UAE via the Fiber-Optic Gulf (FOG) cable; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia; satellite earth stations - 6 (3 Intelsat - 1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean, 1 Inmarsat - Atlantic Ocean, and 2 Arabsat) (2011)
Broadcast media: state-owned TV broadcaster operates 4 networks and a satellite channel; several private TV broadcasters have emerged since 2003; satellite TV available with pan-Arab TV stations especially popular; state-owned Radio Kuwait broadcasts on a number of channels in Arabic and English; first private radio station emerged in 2005; transmissions of at least 2 international radio broadcasters are available (2007)
Internet country code: .kw
Internet hosts: 2,771 (2012)
Internet users: total: 2.4 million
percent of population: 86.9% (2014 est.)
transportation  
Airports: 7 (2013)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 4
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2013)
Heliports: 4 (2013)
Pipelines: gas 261 km; oil 540 km; refined products 57 km (2013)
Roadways: total: 6,608 km (2010)
Merchant marine: total: 34
by type: bulk carrier 2, carrier 3, container 6, liquefied gas 4, petroleum tanker 19
registered in other countries: 45 (Bahamas 1, Bahrain 5, Comoros 1, Libya 1, Malta 3, Marshall Islands 2, Panama 12, Qatar 6, Saudi Arabia 4, UAE 10) (2010)
Ports and terminals: major seaport(s): Ash Shu'aybah, Ash Shuwaykh, Az Zawr (Mina' Sa'ud), Mina' 'Abd Allah, Mina' al Ahmadi
transnational issues  
Disputes - international: Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue negotiating a joint maritime boundary with Iran; no maritime boundary exists with Iraq in the Persian Gulf
Refugees and internally displaced persons: stateless persons: 93,000 (2014); note - Kuwait's 1959 Nationality Law defined citizens as persons who settled in the country before 1920 and who had maintained normal residence since then; one-third of the population, descendants of Bedouin tribes, missed the window of opportunity to register for nationality rights after Kuwait became independent in 1961 and were classified as bidun (meaning without); since the 1980s Kuwait's bidun have progressively lost their rights, including opportunities for employment and education, amid official claims that they are nationals of other countries who have destroyed their identification documents in hopes of gaining Kuwaiti citizenship; Kuwaiti authorities have delayed processing citizenship applications and labeled biduns as "illegal residents," denying them access to civil documentation, such as birth and marriage certificates; 2011 bidun demonstrations for the recognition of their Kuwaiti nationality led to several arrests
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Kuwait is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser degree, forced prostitution; men and women migrate from India, Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, Iran, Jordan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Lebanon, and Kenya to work in Kuwait, most of them in the domestic service, construction, and sanitation sectors; although most of these migrants enter Kuwait voluntarily, upon arrival some are subjected to conditions of forced labor by their sponsors and labor agents, including nonpayment of wages, long working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as the withholding of passports or confinement to the workplace
tier rating: Tier 3 - Kuwait does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making sufficient efforts to do so; no efforts were made to prosecute or convict trafficking offenders using the 2013 anti-trafficking law or other laws addressing trafficking crimes; victim protection measures remained weak particularly due to a lack of proactive victim identification procedures and non-enforcement of the law prohibiting sponsors from withholding workers’ passports; no system was developed to refer victims to protective services; the government initiated investigations of companies that brought in large numbers of unskilled foreign workers under false promises of work and that illegally sold visas (2014)
Update: This page was last updated on 10 November 2015
Sources: CIA, The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ku.html