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RIYAD: A rapid response by the Saudi government to the coronavirus pandemic, the active participation of women in the labor market and the economic reforms of Vision 2030 were cited by experts as major factors in the Kingdom’s unemployment rate falling to its lowest level in nearly five years.
The drop in the unemployment rate comes as the Saudi economy begins to rebound from the pandemic and women are joining the workforce in record numbers.
Saudi Arabia’s overall unemployment rate fell to 11.7% in the first quarter of 2021 from 12.6% in the last quarter of 2020, the General Statistics Authority (GASTAT) said on Wednesday.
According to GASTAT, the unemployment figure is the lowest since a rate of 11.6% in the second quarter of 2016.
The fall in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in the participation of women in the labor market, which rose to 33.6% from 32.1% in the previous quarter.
The Kingdom is benefiting from increased investment as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to diversify the economy as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan.
Economic reforms since 2016 have created millions of jobs, with plans to reduce unemployment to 7% by 2030.
Speaking to Arab News, economist Talat Zaki Hafiz said unemployment in Saudi Arabia fell to its lowest level in nearly five years for a number of reasons, including the government’s stringent efforts to wipe out most sectors. commercial in private companies.
“Empowering women in the labor market and giving them a greater chance to work and participate more actively has been positively reflected in the decline in unemployment in the Kingdom,” he said.
“Today we have more and more better-quality Saudis to work in the private sector in terms of qualification or even willingness to take on the kind of jobs that didn’t appeal to them.”
Hafiz said he was confident the Kingdom will meet its Saudi Vision 2030 target of 7% unemployment.
Dr Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, Advisor and Professor of Law at the Riyadh Institute of Public Administration, said: “Saudi Vision 2030 highlights the importance of increasing employment levels for Saudis. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has managed to reduce its unemployment rate, while other countries have suffered huge job losses.
“The policies implemented by the government have been effective in preventing an increase in unemployment rates,” he said.
Al-Obaidy said that the employment programs and initiatives for young Saudis, especially women, and the investments of the Saudi Public Investment Fund as well as the economic reforms undertaken by the Saudi government have led to a lowering of the rate. unemployment.
This is in addition to the support and incentive programs the government has provided to businesses and business owners to avoid massive job losses, he said.
“The falling unemployment rate in the Kingdom is testament to the strength and resilience of the Saudi economy and its labor market,” Al-Obaidy added.