Rawan Radwan & Arab News
JEDDAH/DUBAI: The recent Saudi Youth Development Survey revealed that 67.02 percent of the Saudi population is between the age of 0 and 34.
The survey, which was performed during the second quarter of 2019 and was published by the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT), aimed to provide many important indicators about the life of young people.
This included social, demographic and economic aspects, as well as the obstacles and challenges that face the younger generation.
Researchers compiled the figures in visits to 5,000 families in 13 regions and results showed that Saudis aged between 15 and 34 years formed 36.7 percent of the total population, 51.03 percent of them males, and 48.97 percent females.
The GASTAT survey also focused on education among youth in the Kingdom, reporting that 31.75 percent believe they have faced learning difficulties during their educational years, of which 31.86 percent were males and 31.64 percent were females.
Amongst these challenges, difficulty in accessing a school or university proved to be significantly low, with only 4.55 percent of males and 5.88 percent of females saying they have struggled to have an education. However, close to 14 percent said they have “difficulty studying.”
Commenting on these difficulties, Dr. Asma Siddiki, a Saudi education management leader with a degree in cognitive psychology from the University of Oxford said: “What’s interesting about this percentage is that it is self-reported. If we were to look at the recently published PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) results, we find that the majority of our 15-year-olds do very poorly with their problem-solving skills in tests on reading, mathematics and science. So it’s no surprise that a third of our 15 to 34 year-olds are aware of their challenges with learning difficulties,” said Dr. Siddiki.
“This is both unfortunate, given the efforts being made in the education sector, and an opportunity, if we are bold enough to recognize that the fix must be in tackling the earlier years and in ensuring that foundations are better laid so that children can be inspired to learn to learn — and not learn to rote learn,” she added.
However, despite a third of respondents facing learning difficulties, the report showed that more than half (58 percent) said they have participated in extracurricular activities, of which 59.67 percent were male and 56.26 percent were females.
The tendency to save more money could be a result of higher income.There are a lot of young people that we classify as youth who are engaged in the economy far more today than a few years back and there are more women in the workforce, which is very positive. Saudi Arabia had a low female labor participation rate in the wider region and that has been improving.
John Sfakianakis, Economist
In addition, the results showed that the percentage of young people fully satisfied in their work was 23.54 percent — 23.9 percent of males, and 21.85 of females. The percentage of working young people who have faced work difficulties, whether past or present, was estimated at 45.88 percent, 45.33 percent of males and 48.53 percent of females.[caption id="attachment_7678" align="alignnone" width="508"] The GASTAT survey showed that around 98 percent of youth use social media platforms.[/caption]
Wedjan Al-Ghamdi, a 31-year-old BIS graduate from Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK, returned to the Kingdom and had difficulty finding a job in her field due to her family commitments and her husband’s job, which requires him to move from one city to another every few years.
To ensure that she made use of her degree, which she obtained through the Ministry of Higher Education, she had to settle for jobs that are far from her field and only provided her with one disappointment after another.
“I have changed jobs several times in the past six years,” said Al-Ghamdi. “I had to work in international schools as a supervisor, a teacher and at times an activities supervisor. It was difficult as I moved from one small city to the next due to my husband’s job, but I believe what would have been best for people like me is to find a company that would allow workers to work from home. There weren’t many in my field that provide that and there are many who have returned from abroad who are still finding it difficult to find jobs in their respective fields.”
Al-Ghamdi said that she has recently found a job that she is content with.
The Saudi government has a series of reform plans, including the ambitious Vision 2030, for the country to invest in education for its people to prepare them to participate in the workforce. Additionally, the Kingdom has proposed strict quotas in the private sector to encourage enterprises to prioritize hiring Saudi nationals and ensure economic and social growth.
The percentage of hired young people who considered that their salary was sufficient to meet their financial obligations was 68.91 percent, 69.59 percent of males, and 70.48 percent of females, while the percentage of young people who said that they can save part of their monthly income, was 44.71 percent, 43.62 percent of males, and 50.19 percent of females.
John Sfakianakis, chief economist at the Gulf Research Center and associate fellow at Chatham House in London, said that the tendency to save more money could be a result of higher income.
“There are a lot of young people that we classify as youth who are engaged in the economy far more today than a few years back and there are more women in the workforce, which is very positive. Saudi Arabia had a low female labor participation rate in the wider region and that has been improving.”
“At one point, youth unemployment rates were higher than they were in Egypt and Greece,” said Sfakianakis. “This was challenging for many years and now we see the overall youth unemployment rates falling, which is proof that many government programs to bolster the economy are working.”
In a recent survey also published by GASTAT, the labor market bulletin for the third quarter of 2019 showed that unemployment rates decreased to 5.5 percent, compared to 5.6 percent for the second quarter of this year. It’s a significant drop in comparison to the fourth quarter of 2018, where it was at 12.7 percent.
Meanwhile, social media proved to play a major role in the lives of Saudi youth.
The GASTAT survey showed that around 98 percent of youth use social media platforms, with 35.83 percent of respondents saying their social relationships have been affected by social media. This included 36.81 percent of males and 34.8 percent of females.
When it comes to societal norms, the report showed that youth believe that social values are strong in their communities. Among these values are an individual sense of responsibility (98.55 percent), hard work (98.12 percent), tolerance (98.26 percent), efficiency (97.46 percent), rational spending (89.22 percent), compliance with regulations (94.64 percent), justice (97.95 percent), moderation (97.42 percent), determination and perseverance (98.41 percent), and transparency (92.64 percent).
“In the unprecedented development that the Kingdom is witnessing, such reported high numbers in the social values that young Saudis share reflect a great sense of patriotism and nationalism,” said Razan Alaquil, Saudi Youth Delegate to the 2018 UN ECOSOC Youth Forum. “Our Saudi identity is being structured and defined on important factors that we as young Saudis not only share, but keep one another accountable for.
“Because this is a time for us to tell the story of our Kingdom through our actions by being responsible citizens who actively contribute. Those actions develop our Kingdom and make the Saudi identity what it is — an identity based upon our sense of contribution and responsibility for our country’s development, hard work, tolerance, efficiency, and so much more. As young Saudis, we keep one another accountable for those civic values because we all look at each other as one.”