population growth rate has slowed down and this trend is bound to have
an impact on economic planning. A recent survey had shown that the
Saudi population growth, which reached one of the highest in the
world, has slowed markedly, though it still remains higher than the
global average and exceeds the growth rate of Saudi real GDP.
The total population of Saudi Arabia, which stood at 3.2
million in the early 1950s, increased to 16.95 million in 1992 before
reaching 19.90 million in 1999. The average annual growth rate
of the population was 2.5 per cent between 1992 and 1999, compared
with 3.5 per cent for the decade prior to that. An analysis of the
estimates of the recent demographic sample survey, conducted by the
Saudi planning ministry, revealed that this growth trend is bound to
have a profound influence on the country's economic planning.
The last population census in Saudi Arabia was conducted in
1992. Analyzing the report, Dammam-based Saudi Commerce and Economic
Review pointed out that the exceptional economic circumstances which
prevailed in the latter half of the 1970s were followed by a period of
two fluctuations in oil prices resulting in wide swings in income and
Consequently, the population growth rate has since come down.
According to the survey, while the total non-Saudi population
grew by an annual average of 1.2 per cent during the 1992-1999 period,
the figure for the Saudi population was 2.9 per cent.
The share of Saudis in the total population went up during the
last decade. The proportion of Saudis in the total population rose
from 72.6 per cent in 1992 to 74.8 per cent in 1999, while the share
of the expatriate population fell from 27.4 per cent to 25.2 per cent
during this period.
It also disclosed that a large part of the expatriate male
population belongs to the illiterate or semi illiterate and unskilled
groups, with the major segment engaged in low income jobs. In the
process of Saudization, educated groups of workers have increasingly
been sent back home to give employment opportunities to educated Saudi
youth. Dealing with the population trends, the Saudi Arabian Monetary
Agency (SAMA) stated that the bulk of the non-Saudis who hold lower
qualifications are laborers, and this represents one of the most
prominent and serious challenges to Saudi Labour markets.
In fact, this is not in keeping with the Saudi Labour market's need
for highly qualified educated workers with proper technical and
vocational expertise. What is currently happening is that the services
of a lot of qualified expatriates, mainly from traditional sources of
manpower such as Egypt, India and Pakistan are being dispensed with in
the private sector industries and services to give opportunities to
the local youth.
The result would naturally have been a fall in the numerical strength
of the expatriate population. But this has not happened because this
phenomenon has been somewhat offset by the larger import of Labour
from countries like Bangladesh in the cleaning sector, and housemaids
from countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The structure and pattern
of the expatriate population have thus been transformed in a
perceptible manner, stated the SAMA report.