Saudi Arabia jobs: hiring to surge on strong economic recovery

Unemployment among Saudi citizens expected to decline further in 2022 and 2023, Jadwa says

RELATED: Saudi Arabia salary guide 2022: how much should you be earning?

Hiring activity in Saudi Arabia is expected to surge in 2022 and 2023 on the back of the kingdom’s economic rebound, according to a report by Jadwa Investment.

The unemployment rate among citizens is expected to drop to 10.7 per cent in 2022 and 10.4 per cent in 2023, after declining to 11 per cent in 2021 from 12.6 per cent in 2020, Jadwa said on Wednesday.

The number of expatriate workers in the job market is also expected to increase as the kingdom’s non-oil economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data shows expat worker numbers grew by 267,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021, marking the first quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2020.

“The recovery in the labour market during 2021 was associated with a significant rebound in the kingdom’s non-oil economy,” Jadwa said.

“With robust levels of non-oil activities growth anticipated in 2022 (at 3.4 per cent according to our forecasts), we expect further rises in the number of Saudi and expat workers in many sectors.”

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy and Opec’s biggest oil producer, is forecast to grow 7.7 per cent this year from 3.2 per cent last year, helped by higher oil prices and a robust non-oil sector, Jadwa Investment said in a seperate report this month.

The International Monetary Fund also revised its growth forecast for the kingdom in its latest World Economic Outlook on the back of higher oil prices.

The kingdom’s economy is now predicted to grow 7.6 per cent this year, up 2.8 percentage points from IMF's January estimates, and 3.6 per cent in 2023, up by 0.8 percentage points from the previous estimates, the Washington-based fund said on Tuesday.

Job creation is one of the key objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which aims to overhaul its economy and reduce its reliance on hydrocarbon revenue.

The country is building several projects as it focuses on diversifying its economy. These include Neom – a $500 billion futuristic city comprising a nature reserve, coral reefs and heritage sites in the Red Sea – and Qiddiya, a huge entertainment and sports project. The Red Sea Development Company is also building a mega-tourism project on Saudi Arabia’s west coast.

More Saudi citizens are expected to take up employment in the accommodation and food services sector as tourism and leisure activities in the kingdom expand, while the number of expatriates in the wholesale and retail and professional activities sectors will drop as a result of localisation programmes, Jadwa said.

The Riyadh skyline. Reuters

The hiring of Saudi citizens increased across all sectors last year, with the largest annual growth recorded in public administration, human health and social work, and accommodation and food services, Jadwa said, citing data from the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics.

Participation of Saudi citizens in the job market rose to 51.5 per cent by the end of 2021, up marginally from 51.2 per cent in 2020, with the private sector recording a significant increase. The number of Saudis employed in the private sector rose to 1.91 million by the end of last year, according to Jadwa.

Meanwhile, the participation of women in the labour force also rose, to 35.6 per cent in 2021 from 33.2 per cent in 2020.

“Higher participation from Saudi female [workers] is being driven by a larger number of first-time job seekers. More specifically, Gastat’s labour market survey showed that the share of unemployed [women] with no previous work experience rose rapidly during the year, from 72 per cent in Q1 2021, to 81 per cent in Q4 2021," the report said.

The number of expatriate workers in the labour market continued to fall in 2021 as a whole, but rose in the fourth quarter owing to higher global vaccination rates, loosening of Covid-19 related restrictions and a rebound in the kingdom’s non-oil economy, it said.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 10:51 AM