Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate is estimated to be 12.2 percent of the local population, according to a government survey of 29,000 families in the Gulf state.
The total number of employed Saudis is 4.2m, representing 87.8 percent of the Saudi labour force, a poll conducted by the Central Department of Statistics and Information said.
The Gulf state, which is struggling to create public sector jobs thanks to a decades-long population boom, is pushing ahead with plans to encourage more private sector companies to reduce their foreign workforce in favour of Saudis.
Roughly nine in ten employees of private firms in Saudi Arabia are expatriates, according to official estimates. Foreign workers, mainly from south or Southeast Asia, generally command lower wages than Saudi staff.
The kingdom needs to create 3m jobs for Saudi nationals by 2015 and 6m jobs by 2030, Labour Minister Adel Al Fakeih said last year.
Ten million people, including expatriates and Saudi nationals, are currently employed in the oil-rich Gulf state, 87 percent of which are men, according to the poll.
The study, which polled Saudi citizens over the age of 15-years old, showed a huge disparity in education levels between men and women. While 35.5 percent of the male work force holds a secondary or equivalent certificate, 66.9 percent of women have bachelor’s degrees.