Unemployment in Saudi Arabia drops, more women enter workforce

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  • Labor force participation rate for women rose to 33.6% in Q1 2021

  • 94 percent of the unemployed open to taking up a private-sector job

The unemployment rate among Saudi Arabia’s working-age populations dropped in the first quarter of 2021 while more women joined the workforce during this period, official data shows.

The unemployment rate among the working-age population, which includes non-Saudis, fell to 6.5 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 7.4 percent during the last quarter of 2020, official data shows.

The data released by the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics on Wednesday also said the participation of working-age females in the labor force increased in the first quarter of 2021 to reach 33.6 percent compared to 32.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

This increase reflects a continuing recent trend despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to job losses globally.

From 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate of total Saudis (males and females 15 years and above) fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021. Saudis’ total unemployment rate is 0.1 pp lower than in the same period of the previous year, below its pre-COVID level, the survey said.

The unemployment rate of Saudi females also fell to 21.2 percent during the first quarter, compared to 24.4 percent in the previous quarter. For Saudi males, however, the rate was slightly higher at 7.2 percent compared to 7.1 percent in the previous quarter.

For all females, the rate fell from 20.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 16.1 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Highlighting the ‘limited mobility of Saudi unemployed, the survey said 94 percent of the unemployed were willing to take up a job in the private sector. But many Saudi unemployed (77.3 percent females and 52.3 percent males) would not consider a job offer, which comes with long commuting times.

Also, 25.8 percent of Saudi unemployed females and 11.2 percent of Saudi unemployed males indicated that they would only accept six working hours or less per day.

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