Saudi unemployment steady in Q2, foreign labour force down 290,000

Foreign workers continue to leave the kingdom due to rising living costs and job restrictions



Saudi unemployment remained steady in the second quarter after increasing in the first three months of the year as foreign workers continued to leave the country.

General Authority for Statistics figures showed the unemployment rate among citizens at 12.9 cent as unemployment among women rose from 30.9 per cent to 31.1 per cent and remained stable for men at 7.6 per cent.

The organisation’s Q2 labour report also indicated an exodus of foreign workers seen over the last 12 months was continuing.

The number of employed non-Saudis decreased 290,381 from 10.18 million to 9.89 million after declining 234,000 the previous quarter.

Read: Saudi unemployment rises in Q1, 234,000 foreign workers leave jobs

This meant the total workforce also decreased from 13.333 million to 13.018 million.

Foreign workers have been leaving the kingdom as labour restrictions bar them from certain job roles, particularly in the retail sector.

Read: Saudi retail, wholesale restrictions could impact 1.22 million foreign-held jobs

The cost of living in the kingdom has also risen due to a new dependents fees, higher fuel and electricity prices and the introduction of a 5 per cent value added tax.

Second quarter economy data released in late September showed gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, expanded 1.6 per cent from a year earlier.

This was largely thanks to the government sector, where growth jumped to 4 per cent from 2.7 per cent as authorities boosted spending.

Read: Saudi economy posts fastest growth in over a year in Q2 but private sector still sluggish

The private sector expanded 1.8 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent in the first quarter, having been hit by austerity measures including new monthly fees charged for each foreign staff member they employ.

Read: Saudi’s slumping economy overhangs reform efforts