Saudi unemployment falls in fourth quarter as virus slows
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Saudi unemployment falls in fourth quarter as virus slows

Saudi unemployment falls in fourth quarter as virus slows

Unemployment among Saudi nationals hit a record high of 15.4 per cent last year

Unemployment among Saudi nationals fell to 12.6 per cent in the fourth quarter as coronavirus cases in the kingdom declined and business began to pick up.

That compares to 14.9 per cent in the third quarter. Joblessness among Saudi men reached 7.1 per cent, while 24.4 per cent of Saudi women were without jobs.

Job creation is the biggest domestic challenge facing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he reshapes an economy long dependent on exported oil and imported labour. Unemployment among Saudi nationals hit a record high of 15.4 per cent last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic set back the de facto ruler’s Vision 2030 plan to transform the world’s largest oil exporter into a regional business and tourism hub.

Coronavirus cases in the kingdom peaked last summer, then gradually decreased over the third and fourth quarters as the government eased restrictions on gatherings and businesses. Gross domestic product grew 2.5 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to the previous three months, though it shrank 3.9 per cent compared to the same period in 2019 – dragged down by a contraction in the oil sector.

Foreigners comprise about a third of the 34 million-strong population. The government is the main employer of Saudis – a model it can’t afford to sustain – while the rest of the economy relies on cheap labour from Asian and other Arab countries.

Three-quarters of private sector workers are foreigners.

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