Unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia falls in Q4 as economy improves

Percentage of citizens out of work fell to 12.6% in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with 14.9% in the third quarter

Streets in illuminated cityscape, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
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The unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia dropped during the fourth quarter of 2020 as business conditions improved in the Arab world's largest economy, official data showed.

Unemployment among citizens fell to 12.6 per cent in the three months to December 31, compared with 14.9 per cent in the third quarter, according to the General Authority for Statistics.

Unemployment for male citizens fell to 7.1 per cent during the quarter, from 7.9 per cent in the third quarter while female unemployment declined to 24.4 per cent from 30.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2020.

Job creation is a key tenet of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, an economic plan that aims to wean the world's largest oil exporter from hydrocarbon revenues. The plan also aims to reduce unemployment for Saudi citizens to 7 per cent and double gross domestic product by 2030.

Labour force participation rates have increased substantially over the past five years. The percentage of Saudi citizens in the workforce increased to 51.2 per cent at the end of last year, from 40.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2019. The percentage of female citizens in the workforce has grown to 33.2 per cent, from 17.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2016.

Data about employment is collated through the quarterly Labour Force Survey survey that is conducted in 33,000 households. These statistics are cross-checked and verified by different government agencies.

The survey also showed a shift in employment preferences, with 93 per cent of respondents saying they would accept a job in the private sector.

Saudi Arabia has introduced various reforms to boost its job market and provide its foreign workers with more flexibility. The kingdom scrapped a rule that required expat workers to gain their employers’ consent before shifting. The move is expected to benefit nearly 10 million foreign workers.

On Tuesday evening, the kingdom also launched Shareek, an initiative to strengthen the partnership between the government and the private sector. The investment programme worth 27 trillion riyals ($7.2 trillion) will also empower the Saudi labour market and economic growth.

Saudi Arabia's economy is expected to grow 2.6 per cent in 2021 and 4 per cent in 2022, following a 3.9 per cent contraction last year, according to the International Monetary Fund.