Unemployment among Saudi Arabian nationals continued to decline in the first quarter of 2021 to 11.7 per cent, from 12.6 per cent in the last quarter of 2020, the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics said.
The figure was also 0.1 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2021, meaning unemployment has fallen to below pre-pandemic levels, the General Authority for Statistics said in its labour market statistics report.
The unemployment rate among Saudi females continued to fall to 21.2 per cent, from 24.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020. This is also 7 per cent lower than the rate before the pandemic. The unemployment rate among Saudi males edged up marginally to 7.2 per cent, compared with 7.1 per cent in the fourth quarter.
The total unemployment rate in the kingdom fell to 3.7 per cent, which was lower than the 4 per cent rate in the final quarter of 2020 but higher than the 2.5 per cent rate at the same period last year.
Job creation is one of the key objectives of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s economic roadmap, to radically overhaul its economy and reduce its reliance on hydrocarbon revenue.
The General Authority for Statistics also surveyed unemployed Saudi citizens to glean their views on the type of jobs they are looking for, the hours and the distance they are willing to travel.
“Asked whether Saudi unemployed would also accept a job in the private sector, more than 94 per cent answered ’yes’,” the authority said.
More than 52.3 per cent of males and 77.3 per cent of females said they would only consider commutes of more than an hour for a private-sector job, while 11.2 per cent of males and 25.8 per cent of females said they only wanted a role offering six hours a day or less.
The growth in the number of working women in Saudi Arabia’s workforce is likely to boost consumer spending, making it an attractive environment for retailers, Alain Bejjani, chief executive of the Middle East’s biggest mall operator, Majid Al Futtaim, said earlier this month.
“Saudi Arabia used to have a relatively modest household income because you had just one bread-earner with large families,” he said. “With better gender equality, we will see the Saudi economy develop and … consumption contributing a much higher share of GDP.”