Saudi Unemployment Drops to Lowest Level in a Decade
Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate among citizens dropped to the lowest level in a decade at the end of the second quarter as the economy continued to recover from the pandemic and the government intensified efforts to create jobs for nationals.
Unemployment of Saudi citizens dropped to 11.3%, the lowest since 2010, according to the government’s General Authority for Statistics. That compares to 11.7% in the first quarter.
Job creation is the biggest challenge facing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader, as he reshapes an economy dependent on exporting oil and importing foreign labor. The pandemic exacerbated the scale of the problem, pushing unemployment of citizens up to 15.4% during the lockdown last year. The prince wants to bring it below 11% by the end of 2021. The government has rolled out a slew of restrictions, fees and incentives to push businesses to hire Saudis over foreigners.
Saudi male unemployment declined to 6.1% in the period from March to June, from 7.2% in the first quarter, while female unemployment rose to 22.3%, from 21.2%, according to data released on Thursday. Saudi labor force participation fell slightly, to 49.4%, suggesting that some citizens are dropping out of the job market. Nearly 60% of unemployed Saudis said they’d been searching for a job for over a year and nearly 70% had never worked before, the survey found.
Labor participation dropped last quarter from 51.2% to 49.5%, the sharpest fall since an economic downturn in 2017. Overall unemployment in the country rose marginally to 6.6%, still higher than pre-pandemic levels of less than 6%.
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