Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia



Saudi Arabia’s population is estimated at 33.4 million[1], with 83.6 percent of the population living in urban areas (2017), and the total fertility rate is 2.7 children per woman.[2] According to latest data published by the General Authority for Statistics (KSA), youth below 30 years old account for 48.8 percent of the total population and nationals make up around 62 percent of the population.[3] The national female population accounts for 42 percent.

|The Saudi economy is the largest in the Arab region with GDP (Purchasing Power Parity, constant 2011 prices) reaching Int$ 1,615 billion in 2017 and Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (Purchasing Power Parity) reaching Int$ 54,770 in 2017.[4] Saudi Arabia holds around 18 percent of the world's proven petroleum reserves, the second largest worldwide, and ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum.[5]


Saudi Arabia has been trying to contain its dependence on oil. The country is determined to achieve deeper economic diversification as outlaid by the country’s 2030 Vision adopted in 2016.[6] The fluctuation in oil prices has largely affected public finances, making budget balances very volatile. With the steep drop of oil prices in 2014, the share of oil revenues dropped from an average of 89 percent (of total revenues) and 95 percent of total exports over the 2004-2014 decade down to a range of 70 percent in recent years.[7] In 2017 and 2018, oil exports accounted for an average of 78.4 percent of total exports.


Real GDP growth rate dropped from 1.7 percent in 2016 down to -0.9 percent in 2017 according to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), but is projected to grow by around 1.9 percent in 2019, with non-oil growth reaching 2.3 percent[4], and the Kingdom adopting its biggest ever budget at 1.11 trillion Saudi Riyal ($295 billion) on December 19th, 2018.


The fiscal deficit has put pressure on the government to accelerate fiscal reforms. At the beginning of 2018, the authorities introduced the 5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) and imposed excise duties on some products and tariffs on foreign workers. The fiscal deficit consequently contracted from 9.3 percent of GDP in 2017 to 4.6 percent of GDP in 2018 and is projected to further narrow down to 1.7 percent of GDP in 2019. The introduction of the value-added tax and rising oil prices prompted an increase in inflation to 3 percent in 2018.[7]


With a growing working-age population of a sizable labor force of 14.2 million by the second quarter of 2018,[3]and high public employment for nationals, Saudis are increasingly encouraged to enter the private sector, dominated by non-Saudi workers. Currently, the total unemployment rate is 6 percent, while that of the Saudi unemployment rate is 12.9 percent. However, economic participation remains relatively low, at 42 percent, which is partly due to the low participation of women, whose unemployment reached 21.1 percent compared to only 3.2 percent for men.[3] Youth unemployment in Saudi Arabia is becoming a challenge, registering the highest rate across the GCC countries at 25 percent.[8] 


The Government of Saudi Arabia has been investing in diversifying its economy away from oil and natural gas. As part of this effort, the Government has been directing its investments and reforms to improve the business environment, support the rise of entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SME) sector, increase women’s participation in the economy, and encourage investment in new industries with high potential for growth and job creation.


Saudi Arabia has made remarkable progress in the education and health sectors. Adult literacy rates rose to 94.8 percent in 2015, up from 79.4 percent in 2000. Remarkably, tertiary gross enrollment rates witnessed a considerable growth from 22.2 percent in 2000 to 66.6 percent in 2016, the highest rate among the Arab countries. The tertiary Gender Parity Index (GPI) scored 1.0 in 2016.[8]


Life expectancy is around 74.5 years, and levels of maternal mortality and infant mortality are quite low, amounting to around 12 per 100,000, and 11.4 per 1,000 respectively.[4] This is positively influenced by the high access to improved drinking water (97 percent of the population) and sanitation facilities (100 percent of the population) in the country, as well as an increasing public health expenditure reaching 5.8 percent of GDP (2015).[9]

This overview was last updated in January 2019. Priority is given to the latest available official data published by national statistical offices and/or public institutions.


[1] General Authority for Statistics. 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2018]. 

[2] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. 2018. World Urbanization Prospects. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2018]. The total population is the same as that published by the General Authority for Statistics (KSA).

[3] General Authority for Statistics. 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2018].

[4] Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority. 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2018].

[5] OPEC. 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2018]. 

[6] Vision 2030 (KSA). 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2018].

[7] International Monetary Fund. 2018. Saudi Arabia: 2018 article IV consultation-press release and staff report. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2018].

[8] The World Bank. 2018. World Development Indicators. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2018].

[9] World Health Organization. 2018. Global Health Expenditure database. [ONLINE] Available at:​ [Accessed 15 December 2018]. 

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Data Highlights

  • The country is the largest exporter of total petroleum liquids in the world and one of the World’s largest producers of crude oil, producing 3.6 billion barrels in (2017).

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