RIYADH: A General Authority for Statistics (GaSat) report published this week has stirred debate over a long-running issue in Saudi Arabia — the age of marriage.
The “Saudi Youth in Numbers” report on marriage and work patterns in the Kingdom’s 15-34 age group drew comment on social media, with some suggesting it painted an inaccurate picture and portrayed marriage before the age of 18 as commonplace.
Its findings were also criticized by a Saudi statistics expert, who said that relying on a wide age range “could leave room for speculation and uncertainty.”
The report indicated that the percentage of married females in the 15-34 age group was 34.3 percent, while the percentage of employed Saudi youth in the same age bracket was 47 percent.
GaSat spokesman Mohammed Al-Dukhainy told Arab News that the 15-34 age group was selected in line with international studies.
Use of this age group made international comparisons easier, he added.
However, Dr. Melfi Al-Rasheedi, a board member of the Saudi Professional Association for Statisticians and Data Scientists, said that “unbalanced” age groups could leave room for speculation and uncertainty, and lead to unclear results. “The way the report was presented was not correct. Suffice it to say that the report did not indicate the statistical method used and whether it took the level of education as a variable in the study,” he said.
“The age group 15-34 is a wide one. We want to know the number of participants who started working or got married between 15 and 18. This is not indicated in the study and we cannot tell.”
Last year, the Ministry of Justice instructed official registrars not to register any marriage if the prospective spouse was below 18 years of age and to report the case to the relevant court, which would decide if there was any risk to the person involved.