World Economy

Saudi Unemployment at Four-Year High

Saudi Unemployment at Four-Year HighSaudi Unemployment at Four-Year High

Unemployment levels in Saudi Arabia rose to 12.1% in the third quarter of 2016, a four-year high, although employment growth remained positive, according to new data from Jadwa Investment.

Its latest research note on the Persian Gulf kingdom’s labor market said the overall participation rate rose to a record high, reaching 42%, pushed up by higher participation from both Saudi males and females, Arabian Business reported.

Jadwa said during the first three quarters of 2016, total net employment in the kingdom saw a significant rise of 892,000, compared with a 417,000 increase between 2014 and 2015.

However, Jadwa added that 95% of these positions went to non-Saudis, a blow to the country’s efforts to encourage more locals into the private sector workforce.

Saudi net employment reached 45,500 in the year-to-September, trending further down from a record low of 49,900 recorded between 2015 and 2014.

Jadwa’s report also said that within the Saudi labor force, female unemployment rose faster than males, while Saudi youth unemployment rose marginally as well.

Last month, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said youth unemployment in Saudi Arabia is expected to increase from 33.5% last year to over 42% in 2030 as the Middle East continues to struggle to create enough jobs for its growing population.

It said the private sector in the Middle East and Africa is still “largely underdeveloped to create sufficient formal jobs”.

Changing the dynamics of the jobs market is a critical element of the government’s wider reform strategy, known as Vision 2030, which was launched earlier in the year. 


The only way to improve the income of Saudi men and women is by creating better opportunities for jobs in the private sector that offer good salaries, the Saudi Gazette reported. 

Apparently, the government seems to have failed in qualifying young Saudi men and women to hold technical and specialist positions; in other words, positions that require skilled workers. 

The country has at least 2.6 million jobs that need highly-qualified Saudis. These positions are currently held by non-Saudis.

“Some people in our country fight Saudization and refuse to replace expats with Saudis. Why don’t those people train Saudi men and women to be the future replacements of expatriates? Why do concerned public agencies not join forces to increase the percentage of the Saudi workforce that holds skilled positions? This is going to be a major challenge for the Commission for Job Generation and Anti-Unemployment”, the Gazette said.

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