Saudi Arabia's economy grew by 3.4 percent in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which sees growth slowing to 2.2 percent this year. That is far below the recent peak of 10.0 percent, posted in 2011, when crude oil prices averaged around $110 per barrel.
Perhaps more worryingly for the House of Saud, youth unemployment — associated in many countries with social unrest in the wake of the global financial crisis — is extremely high. Nearly 30 percent of those aged 15-24 years-old were unemployed in 2014, the most recent year for which the World Bank has data. This figure has held fairly steady since 2007.
A young and growing population means that high volumes of workers enter the Saudi Arabian labor force each year. The challenge is acerbated by the fact that private sector jobs are often filled by expatriates. Plus, the job market is becoming more competitive as female participation increases — albeit slowly and from a very low level.