Joblessness among Saudis falls to 8% in fourth quarter

DUBAI (Reuters) – Unemployment in Saudi Arabia among citizens fell to 8% in the fourth quarter of 2022, decreasing from 9.9% the previous quarter while the labour force participation rate among Saudis was steady at 52.5%, data released on Thursday showed.

The country’s overall employment rate, including non-citizens, fell to 4.8% in Q4 from 5.8% the previous quarter, the General Authority for Statistics said in a statement.

“The decrease in the unemployment rate was driven by employment growth,” the statement said.

The overall unemployment rate includes foreign residents of the kingdom, who comprised just over a third of the total population in 2021, the majority of whom need an employment contract to live there.

Job creation, especially for Saudi nationals, over 60% of whom are under the age of 35, is a key part of the ambitious economic agenda known as Vision 2030, spearheaded by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to cut reliance on oil.

Joblessness among Saudis fell 3 percentage points from 11% in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Workforce participation among female citizens – who have seen social freedoms significantly expanded under the crown prince – is also on the rise. Unemployment among Saudi women dropped to 15.4% in Q4 from 20.5% in Q3, though their labour force participation rate fell 1 percentage point to 36%.

Expansion of the non-oil private sector is a key pillar of Vision 2030, with a wide-ranging programme of privatisations and other government-supported initiatives to spur growth.

The latest data showed that 94.1% of unemployed Saudis would accept jobs in the private sector, slightly higher than in Q3. Historically, the public sector has been the principal employer of Saudi citizens.

(Reporting by Yousef Saba; editing by Jonathan Oatis)