Just The Facts

Saudi Arabia’s Youth: Idle and Underskilled

How does Saudi Arabia’s reliance on foreign labor affect its youth?

Kingdom Tower, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Credit: BroadArrow - Wikimedia)

Kingdom Tower, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Credit: BroadArrow - Wikimedia)


  • Saudi Arabia's foreign worker population of 10 million is equal to half its native population.
  • 2 in 3 Saudi citizens is under the age of 30. Many cannot find work due to abundant cheap foreign labor.

1. Saudi Arabia is heavily reliant on foreign labor. That is having significant economic and societal effects on the country’s future.

2. Perhaps most importantly, Saudi Arabia’s reliance on cheap foreign labor has crippled the development of its private sector.

3. With a native population of 20 million, Saudi Arabia hosts eight million legal foreign workers and 2-3 million illegal ones.

4. That means foreign workers do many jobs, leaving young Saudis idle, underskilled and unemployed.

5. More than two-thirds of all Saudi citizens are under the age of 30.

6. The Middle East already has the world’s second-highest level of youth unemployment, after sub-Saharan Africa.

From As Saudis Crack Down, Foreign Workers Lay Low by Ellen Knickmeyer (Wall Street Journal)



Tags: , , , ,

  • Ali1727

    It’s not accidental Saudi youth are unemployed, poorly educated and have nowhere to go except the Royals’ handouts and mercy. Full employment, human development and science-based education can create a self-reliant and respected society where people will demand civil society, political participation, unions, accountability and transparency.

    The Mufti will declare this un-Islamic and the Ministry of Interior will respond in full force. The royal family and its religious agency still consider the country their own estate and the population is property of the House of Saud, “Saudis.”

    The good news is things are changing fast and drastically domestically. Many of the thus-far disenfranchised population, especially women, are becoming more aware of their usurped rights and the siphoning of their wealth. They are becoming increasingly restless, defiant and it’s only a matter of time before they, like their frustrated Arab brethren, explode.

    Worse yet, the princes’ influence is dwindling regionally and globally. Stay tuned.

    Ali Alyami, Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Washington.