Prior to Iraq’s short-term occupation of Kuwait, 7 percent of the state budget was allocated to health care. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of KWT and acronym for Kuwait. Healthcare, which was considered among the world’s foremost, was also free to non-Kuwaiti people. At the same time, most of the employees in the healthcare sector were (and are) foreigners. Due to the deteriorating economy after the war, the rate of privatization in the formerly state-organized healthcare increased. However, healthcare is still partly free, partly covered by low fees. The same conditions apply to Kuwaiti as to guest workers. The medical density in 2010 was 1.8 per 1,000 residents. Infant mortality is low and life expectancy is among the highest in the Arab world.
During the Iraqi occupation of 1990-91, the healthcare sector was subject to extensive destruction of buildings and equipment. In many cases, theft occurred, where hospital equipment was simply shipped to Baghdad. After the war, there has been an increase in the incidence of respiratory illnesses caused by pollution from the oil fields the Iraqi army ignited. Another effect of the occupation – combined with the fact that women have traditionally been (and are) inferior to society – is the high incidence of post-traumatic stress syndrome, especially among women who were raped by Iraqi occupation troops. These women not only suffer from the direct psychological effects of the rape per se but also became socially vulnerable because pre- or extra-marital sex for women – regardless of the circumstances – is highly stigmatizing. Since independence in 1961, girls and women have had the same rights as boys and men for education and health care, and the right to work in both the public and private sectors. Only in 2005, however, did women get the right to vote and be nominated to Parliament. Women can now also be appointed to high positions in the public administration.
Thanks to its high oil income, Kuwait is usually regarded as a welfare society. However, it is not a people’s home, the welfare is not shared equally between the Kuwaiti citizens and the guest workers, who do not have the right to many of the Kuwaiti social benefits. Check to see Kuwait population.
The social differences between Kuwaiti and immigrants have brought great tensions in society. These have been reinforced soon after the war. One goal of Kuwait’s reconstruction work is to reduce dependence on foreigners in the future.
Subject to the Ottoman Empire from the 16th century, the present Kuwait remained relatively autonomous from Istanbul and exposed to the incursions of nomadic tribes from the interior. From the 18th century. the settlement of tribes from the Neged gave life to the city of Kuwait, which became a center of trade and fishing; the assumption of the title of sheikh by a member of the Ṣabāḥ family (1756) gave rise to the ruling dynasty, which maintained a formal subjection to the Ottoman authorities but, from the end of the 18th century, increasingly accepted British influence.
At the end of the First World War, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire left the sheikhdom under the exclusive British control. The discovery, starting in the late 1930s, of rich hydrocarbon deposits made it possible after the Second World War accelerated economic growth, accompanied by population growth and infrastructure development. In 1961, with the cessation of the British protectorate, Kuwait became an independent state and the sheikh assumed the title of emir. An agreement with Saudi Arabia (1965) provided for the partition of the neutral border area. On the other hand, relations with Iraq were immediately difficult, given that the nationalist regime of Qāsim did not recognize the border agreements with Kuwait as valid and claimed the latter’s territory. After an intervention by the Arab League, the crisis was resolved by the overthrow of Qāsim (1963) and the new Iraqi government recognized the independence of the Kuwait establishing diplomatic relations with it, even if the tensions over the borders dragged on in the following years.
Internally, power remained in the hands of the ruling family, which from 1921 alternated the descendants of the two sons of Mubarak aṣ-Ṣabāḥ, Giābir aṣ-Ṣabāḥ and Sālim aṣ-Ṣabāḥ to lead the country. A Constitution passed in 1962 established the creation of a National Assembly, but its representativeness remained very limited due both to the prohibition of political parties and to the narrowness of suffrage with respect to the resident population in Kuwait. The National Assembly was dissolved by the Emir Ṣabāḥ as-Sālim in 1976, following both the increase in progressive and pan-Arab-oriented deputies, which occurred with the 1975 elections, and the conflicts that subsequently arose between them and the government. Re-elected in 1981, it was dissolved again in 1985 due to the re-emergence of the parliamentary opposition.