Time: 03 July 2021
The decline in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in female participation in the workforce. (Supplied)
Economic and social reforms, pandemic response praised as experts hail rapid jobs growth
RIYADH: A rapid Saudi government response to the coronavirus pandemic, women’s active participation in the workforce and Vision 2030 economic reforms have been cited by experts as major factors in the Kingdom’s unemployment rate falling to its lowest level in almost five years.
The decline in the jobless rate comes as the Saudi economy begins to rebound from the pandemic and women join the workforce in record numbers.
The overall Saudi unemployment rate fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) said on Wednesday.
According to GASTAT, the joblessness figure is the lowest since an 11.6 percent rate in the second quarter of 2016.
The decline in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in female participation in the workforce, which rose to 33.6 percent from 32.1 percent in the previous quarter.
The Kingdom is benefiting from a surge in investment as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to diversify the economy under the Vision 2030 reform plan.
Economic reforms since 2016 have created millions of jobs, with plans to reduce unemployment to 7 percent by 2030.
Speaking to Arab News, economist Talat Zaki Hafiz said that unemployment in Saudi Arabia has fallen to its lowest level in almost five years for many reasons, including rigorous efforts by the government to Saudize most of the commercial sectors in private businesses.
The overall Saudi unemployment rate fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, GASTAT said.
“Empowering women in the labor market and offering them a wider chance to work and participate more actively has reflected positively in unemployment sliding in the Kingdom,” he said.
“Today we have more and better Saudis to work in the private sector from the point of view of qualification or even willingness to accept the kind of jobs that were not appealing to them.”
Hafiz said that he was confident the Kingdom will reach its Saudi Vision 2030 target of 7 percent unemployment.
Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, adviser and law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said: “Saudi Vision 2030 highlights the importance of raising the employment levels of Saudis. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Saudi Arabia managed to lower its unemployment rate, while other countries suffered huge job losses.
“Policies implemented by the government were effective in avoiding an increase in unemployment rates,” he said.
Al-Obaidy said that employment programs and initiatives for young Saudis, especially women, and investments by the Saudi Public Investment Fund as well as economic reforms undertaken by the Saudi government have led to a lowering of the unemployment rate.
This is in addition to the support and incentive packages that the government provided to businesses and business owners to help avoid mass job losses, he said.
“The lowering of the unemployment rate in the Kingdom is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Saudi economy and its labor market,” Al-Obaidy added.