Saudi Arabia's chronically high unemployment rates have finally started to show a significant decrease as 2019 comes to an end. The unemployment rate among nationals has gone down to 12.3 percent after reaching a record high 12.9 percent last year.
Speaking at the 2020 Budget Meeting Sessions in Riyadh, Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri said he expects the numbers to fall even further by the end of the year.
The recent improvement, according to the Saudi minister, is the result of huge efforts being made by the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. Al-Tuwaijri added that several plans are now in place "to create jobs in tourism, culture, entertainment and hospitality as part of the government's Vision 2030."
In his address at the event, Ahmed Al-Rajhi, the Minister of Labour and Social Development, explained that his ministry aims to create 1.5 million jobs by 2030.
The government entity has made strides in efforts to meet this goal. These improvements include supporting the launch of 2,843 non-profit organizations in the past few months.
The ministry has also Saudized over 175,500 jobs so far and continues to encourage the participation of women in the local workforce. The proportion of their joining in recorded a 25.3 percent increase this year.
Saudi women have been taking the country's job market by storm for a while now. The most recent official statistics revealed that the number of Saudi women working in both public and private sectors reached a total of 596,700 in the first quarter of 2019, rising by 282.5 percent. This year, 440,700 women started working compared to 156,000 in 2018.
Unemployment rates in the country began dropping last year
A report released in January revealed that the kingdom's unemployment rate went down from 12.9 to 12.8 percent in the third quarter of 2018.
Despite the recent drops, the percentage of unemployment, especially among younger Saudis, is still considered to be relatively high.
As efforts to Saudize more of the kingdom's industries continue, some are questioning their effectivity given that the exit of over 900,000 expats hasn't significantly affected unemployment rates.
Experts in the kingdom believe rates are more prone to be affected by the development of new industries in fields like technology and artificial intelligence rather than focusing on existing ones run by expats, namely the retail sector. That's because most Saudis are uninterested in jobs usually taken by expats and consider them low-wage.