RIYADH — In a remarkable shift, Saudi Arabia has witnessed a significant decrease in unemployment rates among women, marking a transformative journey toward gender equality in the workforce. As the Kingdom continues to empower its female population, this trend not only signifies economic progress but also reflects a broader societal transformation.
The fourth quarter of 2022 recorded a momentous drop in unemployment rates among Saudi women, which plunged to 15.4 percent compared to previous years (2019, 2020, and 2021). This change aligns perfectly with the expanding role of women in the Saudi economy, where they are making their presence felt across various sectors.
According to a report by the General Authority for Statistics in Saudi Arabia, the percentage of working women among the population rose to 30.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, marking an increase from the 27.6 percent recorded in the same quarter of 2021. Additionally, women's participation in the labor market reached 36 percent, up from 35.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021.
The report also highlights a growing trend of Saudi women engaging in freelance work. In 2021, the number of documents issued for female freelancers reached an all-time high of 961,189, a stark contrast to the 105,518 documents issued in 2020 and a mere 7,997 in 2019.
Saudi Arabia's stock market has witnessed a significant influx of female investors in recent times, with 2021 recording 1,516,995 Saudi female investors, surpassing the figures for 2019 and 2020.
Standard & Poor's credit rating agency anticipates that the increased participation of women in the workforce in Saudi Arabia will enhance the Kingdom's economic growth opportunities. The agency's report noted that labor market reforms have led to an increase in the female workforce participation rate to approximately 36 percent in 2022, compared to 19 percent in 2016.
The report states, "If the current pace of workforce participation continues over the next ten years, the agency's economic group estimates that the Saudi economy could reach $39 billion or more, representing a 3.5 percent increase compared to the historical scenario of workforce participation growth from 2000 to 2022." Furthermore, it suggests that sustained annual growth of one percentage point in the overall female workforce participation over the next decade could accelerate the Kingdom's annual real economic growth by an average of 0.3 percentage points to reach 2.4 percent, assuming that workforce productivity remains similar to the past two decades.
The agency attributed the increase in female workforce participation to higher education levels and several government initiatives, such as expanding childcare services, allowing women to drive, increasing remote work and hybrid work options, abolishing the requirement for male guardian approval to start a business, and increasing the number of female positions in the military.
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