Unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia fell to 4.9% in Q2 2023, down 0.9% from the same period last year. For Saudi nationals, the rate fell to 8.3% in Q1 from 9.7% in the year-ago period.

Among Saudi females, the unemployment rate fell to 15.7% in Q2, from 19.3% in the year-ago period, according to new data released by the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) on Thursday.

However, labour force participation rate among women also fell slightly from the previous quarter to 34.1% from 34.4% in the year-ago quarter and 35.4% in the previous quarter, bucking the recent trend of higher participation that followed unprecedented reforms in laws and regulations relating to them in a bid to grow the non-oil economy.

A recent report by financial information and analytics firm S&P Global showed that Saudi Arabia’s labour market reforms have led the country’s female labour force participation rate to nearly double in 2016-2022 to almost 36% in 2022 from 19% in 2016.

The OPEC’s biggest oil producer expanded its GDP by 8.7% in 2022, and was the fastest growing G20 economy, according to the IMF. However, voluntary cuts to oil production this year and lower prices have hit oil revenues that will drag expansion to 1.9% or even lower, IMF said. Despite this, non-oil GDP is seen to grow at 4.9% this year.

According to GASTAT,  among Saudi males, however, the unemployment rate was unchanged at the level of 4.6%. Labor force participation rate among Saudi males fell to 79.7% in Q2 2023 compared with 80.2% in the previous quarter.

Results of the survey showed that 58.9% of unemployed Saudi females and 44.9% of unemployed Saudi males would accept a maximum commuting time to work of one hour.

Similarly, 75% of unemployed Saudi females and 90% of unemployed Saudi males indicated that they would accept work for eight hours or more per day.

(Reporting by Brinda Darasha; editing by Seban Scaria)