Saudi unemployment rate down to 14.9% in Q3 2020

Saudi unemployment rate down to 14.9% in Q3 2020
The total number of employed persons across the Kingdom stood at 13.46 million in Q3 2020. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 23 January 2021

Saudi unemployment rate down to 14.9% in Q3 2020

Saudi unemployment rate down to 14.9% in Q3 2020
  • The total number of employed persons across the Kingdom stood at 13.46 million in Q3 2020
  • The Saudi labor market and economy are still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

The unemployment rate among Saudis decreased to 14.9 percent in Q3 2020 from 15.4 percent in Q2 2020, compared to 11.8 percent in Q1 2020, according to data from the Saudi General Authority for Statistics.

In addition, unemployment rate among males and females stood at 7.9 percent and 30.2 percent, respectively in the same period.

Meanwhile, unemployment rate among all residents (15 years and above) dropped from 9 percent from 8.5 percent by the end of Q3 2020.

The Saudi labor market and economy are still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total number of employed persons across the Kingdom stood at 13.46 million in Q3 2020. Males accounted for 82 percent, or 10.97 million of total labor force, while females represented 18 percent, or 2.49 million.

Meanwhile, employed expats accounted for nearly 10.20 million, representing 75.8 percent of the total employees, while nationals accounted for 24.1 percent, or 3.25 million.

A total of 8.50 million workers, or 63.2 percent of total labor force, are subject to the regulations of the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI), while 9.4% percent are subject to the rules of the Civil Service.

Meanwhile, 27.3 percent of total labor force represents domestic workers.


OPEC raises 2021 oil demand growth forecast on hope pandemic wanes

OPEC raises 2021 oil demand growth forecast on hope pandemic wanes
Updated 13 April 2021

OPEC raises 2021 oil demand growth forecast on hope pandemic wanes

OPEC raises 2021 oil demand growth forecast on hope pandemic wanes
  • Upward revision by the oil producers’ alliance marks a change of tone from previous months

LONDON: OPEC on Tuesday raised its forecast for growth in world oil demand this year on expectations the pandemic will subside, providing help for the group and its allies in their efforts to support the market.

Demand will rise by 5.95 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2021, or 6.6 percent, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries forecast in its monthly report. That is up 70,000 bpd from last month.

“As the spread and intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to subside with the ongoing rollout of vaccination programs, social distancing requirements and travel limitations are likely to be scaled back, offering increased mobility,” OPEC said in the report.

The upward revision marks a change of tone from previous months, in which OPEC has lowered demand forecasts because of continued lockdowns. A further recovery could bolster the case for OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, to unwind more of last year’s record oil output cuts.

Oil gained further toward $64 a barrel after the report was released on Tuesday. Prices have risen to pre-pandemic highs above $70 this year, boosted by anticipation of economic recovery and OPEC+ supply restraint.

OPEC made a small upward revision in its 2021 demand projection last month, but it has steadily lowered the forecast from 7 million bpd expected in July 2020.

The group raised its forecast of 2021 world economic growth to 5.4 percent from 5.1 percent, assuming the impact of the pandemic is “largely contained” by the beginning of the second half of the year.

“The global economic recovery continues, significantly supported by unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus,” OPEC said. “The recovery is very much leaning toward the second half of 2021.”

OPEC+ agreed on April 1 to ease oil output cuts gradually from May. The report also showed higher OPEC oil output already as Iran, exempt from making voluntary cuts because of US sanctions, pumped more in March, driving a 200,000 bpd rise in the group’s output to 25.04 million bpd.

OPEC+ cut supply by a record 9.7 million bpd last year to support the market as demand collapsed. Most of those curbs remain in place even after the April 1 decision. OPEC+ holds its next policy meeting on April 28. Rival producers are also boosting supply, although OPEC left its forecast of non-OPEC output growth in 2021 steady at almost 1 million bpd and still sees US shale output, which often recovers in response to higher prices, declining.

With higher demand and steady non-OPEC supply, OPEC raised its estimate of global demand for its crude to 27.4 million bpd this year, up 200,000 bpd from last month and allowing for higher average OPEC production in 2021.


Saudi fintech startup secures $670k seed funding

Saudi fintech startup secures $670k seed funding
Updated 13 April 2021

Saudi fintech startup secures $670k seed funding

Saudi fintech startup secures $670k seed funding
  • New legislation in Saudi Arabia will make e-invoicing necessary in all transactions

JEDDAH: Saudi fintech startup Prexle has raised SR2.5 million ($670,000) in seed funding from angel investors, the company announced this week.

A cloud-based point-of-sale software startup, Prexle’s platform helps retail store owners control inventories, customer demands, purchasing orders, discounts and generate business performance reports.

In a press statement, CEO and co-founder Abdullah Al-Ajlan said: “We’re happy to close our round of investment, which is going to surely help us improve the retail industry in the Kingdom through employing the latest technologies in the point-of-sale industry.”

Yazeed Al-Saif, co-founder and chief technology officer, added: “We value our investors’ trust. This round marks an important milestone in our journey to change the way retail works, and will allow us to even further develop and improve our product.”

By the end of 2021, new legislation in Saudi Arabia will make e-invoicing necessary in all transactions, and Prexle is one of the companies that stands to benefit from this requirement.

The number of digital payment transactions in the Kingdom surged 75 percent in 2020 as Saudi consumers embraced online shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.

The total number of digital transactions last year amounted to about 2.8 billion, an increase of 75 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. The value of these transactions totaled about SR349 billion, an increase of almost 24.1 percent compared with the same period in 2019.

Network International, the UAE-based digital payment processor which this month told Arab News it is pushing ahead with a Saudi expansion later this year, reported that the amount of non-cash payments it processed in the Kingdom grew from 8 percent in 2017 to 16 percent in 2019, making Saudi Arabia one of its fastest growing markets.


Emirati Coffee set to expand into Saudi Arabia

Emirati Coffee set to expand into Saudi Arabia
Updated 13 April 2021

Emirati Coffee set to expand into Saudi Arabia

Emirati Coffee set to expand into Saudi Arabia
  • Emirati Coffee reported a 3,135 percent increase in online sales in 2020, fueled by strong market demand for its specialty coffee produce

JEDDAH: Emirati Coffee, the UAE’s first specialty coffee roastery, is expanding into the Kingdom with the opening of its first Saudi branch in July 2021. The chain, which currently has 160 locations worldwide, will open in Alkhobar under the brand name Knowhere.

The company is preparing to open an outlet in Riyadh in 2022.

Mohamed Ali Al-Madfai, CEO of Emirati Coffee, told Arab News that the Riyadh outlet would be called the Emirati Coffee Roastery.

Al-Madfai said he believed there was great potential for growth in the Saudi market and that he is aiming to capitalize on the brand’s popularity among Saudi travelers, “especially those that came to love that brand when visiting Dubai pre-pandemic,” he said. Emirati Coffee reported a 3,135 percent increase in online sales in 2020, fueled by strong market demand for its specialty coffee produce.

The busiest period was during the first two months of the pandemic, when the UAE launched a national sterilization campaign to contain the virus. “Coffee was already the number one e-commerce grocery product before 2020, but the pandemic boosted the growth due to greater consumption at home.

Coffee buyers cut back on trips to the supermarket and coffee drinkers can’t go to the cafés,” Al-Madfai said.

He added: “Consumers resorted to online purchases and with the availability of our own delivery fleet, they were able to get their hands on their cup of coffee.”


Egypt ‘seizes’ Suez megaship, demands nearly $1bn compensation

Egypt ‘seizes’ Suez megaship, demands nearly $1bn compensation
Updated 14 April 2021

Egypt ‘seizes’ Suez megaship, demands nearly $1bn compensation

Egypt ‘seizes’ Suez megaship, demands nearly $1bn compensation

CAIRO: Suez Canal chiefs on Tuesday implemented an Egyptian court order to seize the giant cargo ship that blocked the waterway for almost a week in March.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) is claiming $916 million in compensation for lost revenue, damage to the canal, equipment and labor used to free the ship, and reputational harm.

The Ever Given container ship, owned by the Japanese cargo fleet operator Shoei Kisen, has been in a lake between two sections of the canal since it was dislodged on March 29, while the SCA carries out an investigation.

Yumi Shinohara, deputy manager of Shoei Kisen’s fleet management department, said the SCA had made a compensation claim and the ship had not been given clearance to leave.

The ship’s insurers, UK Club, said they were disappointed. “Despite the magnitude of the claim … the owners and their insurers have been negotiating in good faith with the SCA,” a spokesman said on Tuesday.

“On April 12, a carefully considered and generous offer was made to the SCA to settle their claim. We are disappointed by the SCA’s subsequent decision to arrest the vessel today.”

The SCA said a court order had been issued for the ship to be held, and negotiations over the compensation claim were still taking place.

International trade was thrown into chaos when the 400-meter vessel ran aground on March 23, with 18,300 containers on board. Nearly a third of the world’s shipping container volume passes through the canal. Specialist rescue teams took six days to free the vessel, delaying the passage of more than 400 ships and causing others to divert around Africa.


SABIC unit aims to ramp up investment support for industrial SMEs

SABIC unit aims to ramp up investment support for industrial SMEs
Faisal Al-Buhair
Updated 13 April 2021

SABIC unit aims to ramp up investment support for industrial SMEs

SABIC unit aims to ramp up investment support for industrial SMEs
  • Nusaned program has potential to create more than 2,000 jobs

JEDDAH: Nusaned Investment, the localization initiative from Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC), was set up in 2018 as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the non-oil economy by encouraging the growth of local companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the industrial sector.

“We connect potential investors to the program,” Faisal Al-Buhair, vice president local content and business development and CEO of Nusaned, told Arab News. “Once they register with the Entema platform, which is the opportunity gate at Nusaned, we take them through the investor’s journey.”

Last year 106 Saudi entrepreneurs qualified for Nusaned’s program. The screening of proposed investments is an important step in ensuring that the program focuses on the right candidates and those with the ability to scale up and have national impact.

“An important criteria in our screening process is that the investment needs to support the National Industry Strategy sectors and thereby add value to Saudi Vision 2030,” Al-Buhair said. “In any case, an investor who shows a high level of commitment, knowledge, and readiness will have a higher chance of success.”

He was optimistic about the year ahead after the challenges the Kingdom had faced because of the pandemic in 2020.

Nusaned is aiming to increase its investments in companies that are considered to be strategic and critical industries for the Kingdom, such as automotive, aviation, food processing and pharmaceutical/medical manufacturing.

“We are keen on investments that offer differentiated solutions, specialized applications, and advanced technology to help the Kingdom enhance its competitiveness in local and export markets,” Al-Buhair said.

So far the program has more than 33 investments in the execution phase, of which 14 are already in operation. These investments have an expected annualized gross domestic impact of over $500 million and the potential to create more than 2,000 jobs.

This week Nusaned signed an investment agreement with the Saudi Pallet Manufacturing Company (SPMC) to promote the local production of plastic pallets. The funding will help SPMC to accelerate its product development, ramp up production, and expand its product reach regionally and globally.

“The partnership with SABIC will enable SPMC to serve the fast-moving consumer goods market by producing technologically advanced and patented multi-use plastic pallets from its manufacturing facility in Dammam,” Omar Al-Shawaf, SPMC CEO, said in a press statement.