P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
Saturday 19 August 2006
Last Update 19 August 2006 12:00 am
JEDDAH, 19 August 2006 — The number of Saudi women in the Kingdom is expected to exceed that of their Saudi male counterparts by 2010 when the Saudi population is estimated to cross 26 million, according to a report by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Men, who currently represent 50.1 percent of the population, will decline to represent 48.85 percent of the population (or 0.977 men for each woman) by 2010. The latest census conducted in September 2004 showed the Saudi population growing to 16,529,302, representing 72.9 percent of the total population with expatriates accounting for 6.14 million. The monthlong census, which started on Sept. 15, 2004, put the Kingdom’s total population at more than 22.67 million.
“There are 8,285,662 male Saudis, who represent 50.1 percent of the total Saudi population,” said the statistics department of the Ministry of Economy and Planning.
According to the census, the number of Saudi women is 8,243,640. Among the foreigners 4,271,598 are men and 1,872,638 women.
About 42.4 percent of the Saudi population is 14 years old or younger (compared to 21 percent for the United States). Riyadh and Jeddah had populations of more than two million each.
The population in other main cities including Makkah, Madinah, Dammam, Jubail, Yanbu, Al-Ahsa, Buraidah, Tabuk, Taif, Hail and Abha ranged between 500,000 and a million.
Seventy-five percent of the population is concentrated in the cities.
The study that was conducted by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry also pointed out that four Saudi regions — Baha, Hail, Al-Jouf and Jizan — were heading for a major housing problem as they lacked adequate number of housing units to meet the needs of growing population.
The annual growth rate of housing units in Al-Baha was 1.39 percent compared to 1.4 percent in Hail, two percent in Al-Jouf 2 and 2.2 percent in Jizan, much lower than the rate of population surge, a report carried by Al-Watan said.
“Progress of housing in the four regions was also lower than the nationwide growth rate of 3.64 percent,” the paper pointed out.
The Saudi population has been growing at the rate of 2.45 percent annually from 1992 to 2004.
The study pointed out that the regions such as Riyadh, Tabuk, Makkah and the Eastern Province topped the list of regions having considerable growth rate in housing units with 4.83, 4.42, 3.8 and 3.69 percent of growth respectively.
It said the average number of occupants in each housing unit dropped from 5.85 members in 1992 to 5.68 in 2004. There was tremendous increase in villas and flats and considerable fall in the number of traditional houses.
This again shows an improvement in housing facilities with the use of quality materials. The study found an increase in the number of houses owned by people.
The government has planned to build thousands of low-cost houses in different parts of the country. Regions such as Jizan, Najran, Madinah, Al-Jouf, Hail and the Northern Border Province will receive the lion’s share of 16,000 low-cost homes approved by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
Work on the project, costing SR2.4 billion, will start soon, according to Social Affairs Minister Abdul Mohsen Al-Akkas.
King Abdullah has allocated SR10 billion to construct 64,000 low-cost houses in the next four years for hundreds of Saudi families who live in makeshift buildings and slums. According to a survey conducted by the Prince Abdullah Foundation for Housing, people live in poverty in many parts of the Kingdom.
Dr. Yousuf Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the foundation, said the Kingdom needed at least one million housing units immediately. Within three years, the foundation has completed a large number of low-cost housing projects for the poor in various parts of the country. The housing units are provided with all facilities including heath care and education.