Unemployment facts and figures

Unemployment facts and figures

Barjas Al-Barjas

Barjas Al-Barjas


UNEMPLOYMENT in the Kingdom is still in the double digits at 11.6 percent; one of the world’s highest for a national unemployment rate. As for unemployment among women, it has reached 32.8 percent in the Kingdom. The figure is the highest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

We should realize that these two unemployment figures are for those whom the state has recognized as currently actively looking for a job but are unable to find employment. All must know that these unemployment figures do not include those who do not want to work. The figures also do not include those who put conditions on accepting a job offer, and it doesn’t include the Kingdom’s 3.8 million housewives. All of these groups are classified as outside the labor market, and are therefore not included in the Kingdom’s unemployment figures.

If some of these groups were recognized as ‘job seekers’, especially female university graduates who are often forced to remain in their homes, then the national unemployment rate would increase, multifold. If we exclude the “fake Saudization” of jobs, which is estimated at around 500,000 people, the unemployment rate would rise to 21 percent.

In its recent report, the General Authority for Statistics showed that the number of Saudis over 15 years of age has reached 13.8 million. Of these, 8.2 million are outside the labor market and only 5.6 million are considered inside the Kingdom’s labor market. The unemployment rate is obtained by dividing the 646,000 employed Saudis by 5.6 million, giving the unemployment rate of 11.6 percent.

These employed statistics include the estimated 500,000 “fake Saudization” positions, which artificially reduces the national unemployment rate significantly. Due to the absence of transparency in the Authority’s statistics, it’s difficult to get an accurate picture of employment in the Kingdom.

For example, one of the classifications of ‘employed’ people mentioned that those working in the education sector have reached 1.2 million. This contradicts reports from the ministries of education and civil service, which state that the number of employees in the education sector has reached 600,000. Are the extra 600,000 from the Authority’s statistics in the private schools and training institutes? Regardless, they do not fulfill the conditions for Saudization, not to mention the difference in the number of schools and universities.

The problem lies in, first, the Kingdom’s huge unemployment rate, second, including ‘fake Saudization’ to increase employment figures and artificially reduce unemployment figures, third, the salaries of about one million Saudis in the private sector do not exceed SR3,500, and, fourth, about 3.8 million Saudi women have been forced to remain in their homes due to the unavailability of suitable jobs.

There are two other unemployment indices, and they are worse than what we have discussed so far.

The “percentage of employed to the population of Saudi Arabia” is 25 percent. In the US, for example, it is 33 percent. With this percentage, it means that every person working in America provides for two other people (a wife and a child, for example). However, in the Kingdom, every working person provides for three people (a wife and two children, possibly).

Definitely, this is a financial burden on the husband and father, not to speak of the low average salary in the Kingdom. The same is the case in many countries. However, we must remember that the US counts only the full-time employees who works for eight hours a day. In the Kingdom, if a person works for one hour a week, they are counted in these statistics.

There is another very important index: the percentage of those employed to the population between 15 and 64 years of age. This reaches 42 percent in the Kingdom, but in China it reaches 75 percent, and in India 53 percent. These two countries together have a total population of 2.6 billion. The majority of their populations are living in difficult working conditions, but despite this, their indices are better than ours.

The same is the case in the US; the percentage of employed to the population between 15 to 64 years of age is 59. In the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the percentage is 65. In the European Union (EU) it is 65 percent, in Russia it is 69 percent, in Australia it is 62 percent, in New Zealand 72 percent, in Canada 72 percent, in the United Kingdom (UK) 71 percent, and over 60 percent in the remaining European countries.

In Turkey it is 49 percent, Mexico 61 percent, Korea 64 percent, Chile 62 percent, Malaysia 58 percent, Thailand 72 percent, Pakistan 52 percent, and the Philippines 61 percent.

As regards to Greece, it is 51 percent, and in Spain it is 56 percent. This is despite the fact that these two countries are suffering from a high unemployment rates that are causing considerable concern across the European Union.