RIYADH: The unemployment rate among Saudis has dropped to its lowest level since records began in 1991.
It fell to 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, from 9.9 percent in the previous three months, according to the General Authority for Statistics’ labor force survey.
The Kingdom has set itself a target unemployment rate of 7 percent by 2030.
The country’s overall employment rate, including non-citizens, fell to 4.8 percent in the final three months of 2022, from 5.8 percent the previous quarter, the General Authority for Statistics said in a statement.
“The impressive decrease in the unemployment rate resulted from a double effect of the decrease in labor force participation and at the same time the employment growth,” Gastat said in its report.
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 percent of whom are under the age of 35, is a key part of the ambitious economic agenda known as Vision 2030, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to cut reliance on oil.
Joblessness among Saudis fell 3 percentage points from 11 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Workforce participation among female citizens is also on the rise. Unemployment among Saudi women dropped to 15.4 percent in the final three months of 2022 from 20.5 percent in the previous quarter, though their labor force participation rate fell 1 percentage point to 36 percent.
The labor force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio of Saudi males increased to 65.7 percent and 68.5 percent, respectively.
Expansion of the non-oil private sector is a key pillar of Vision 2030, with a wide-ranging program of privatizations and other government-supported initiatives to spur growth.
The latest data showed that 94.1 percent of unemployed Saudis would accept jobs in the private sector, slightly higher than in the third quarter of 2022. Historically, the public sector has been the principal employer of Saudi citizens.
Moreover, 57.8 percent of unemployed Saudi females and 43.6 percent of unemployed Saudi males would accept a maximum commuting time to work of one hour.
Similarly, 73 percent of unemployed Saudi females and 89.1 percent of unemployed Saudi males indicated they would accept work for eight hours or more per day.