2021 Q1 Labor Statistics Released: Saudi unemployment rate decreases

Saudi General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) has released the first quarterly labor market bulletin of 2021 through its official website. The press release features estimates based on the Labor Force Survey and statistics from the Ministry of HR and Social Development, GOSI (General Organization for Social Insurance), the HR Development Fund, and the National Information Center. 

Saudi unemployment rate decreases 

According to the survey, the total working-age population’s unemployment rate (Saudis and non-Saudis 15 years of age and older) decreased from 7.4% in the last quarter of 2020 to 6.5% in the first quarter of 2021. Furthermore, the Saudi unemployment rate (males and females 15 years and above) decreased to 11.7% in the first quarter of 2021, from 12.6% in the fourth quarter of 2020. Saudi Arabia’s total unemployment rate is 0.1% lower than in the same period last year, which is below its pre-COVID level. 

The report further shows that during the first quarter of 2021, the unemployment rate for the total male population of Saudi Arabia dropped to 3.7%, compared to 4.0% in the previous quarter. Overall, the female unemployment rate declined from 20.2% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 16.1% in the first quarter of 2021. 

According to Labor Force Survey estimates, the unemployment rate for Saudi males was 7.2% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 7.1% in the fourth quarter of 2020, while the unemployment rate for Saudi females was 21.2% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 24.4% in the previous quarter. The overall Saudi unemployment rate dropped to 11.7% in the first quarter of 2021, from 12.6% in 2020 Q4. It is now below pre-pandemic levels. 

Saudi Arabia has been trying to implement economic reforms since 2016 to create millions of jobs and cut unemployment to 7% by 2030. The Saudi government’s plans had been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak in 2020. Despite this, the recent indicators show that the government is on the right track, and if they continue to progress like this, they will be able to accomplish the target very soon.  

Labor force participation rate increases 

Key findings:

  • Labor force participation of total male working-age decreased 
  • Labor force participation of total female working-age increased 

According to the survey’s findings, the labor force participation rate of the whole working-age population (Saudis and non-Saudis 15 years and older) grew to 61.1% in the first quarter of 2021, up from 61.0% in the previous quarter. Furthermore, the statistics showed that the labor force participation rate of the total male working-age population fell to 79.7% in the first quarter of 2021, down from 80.6% in the previous quarter. The overall female working-age population’s labor force participation rate increased to 33.6% in the first quarter of 2021, up from 32.1% in the fourth quarter of 2018. 

GAST further stated that these figures were based on two sources; the authority conducts family surveys using social statistics. These surveys are carried out by visiting necessary samples representing the Kingdom’s main executive areas. To safeguard the health of both interviewers and respondents, all face-to-face interviews have been replaced by telephonic interviews since Q2/2020. An updated sample of 53,360 households was contacted by phone to get information. The second source of information is administrative data (GOSI, MHRSD, NIC) recorded and updated by government agencies related to the labor market. These agencies are significant sources of employment data. 

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