A September 2017 IPSOS survey entitled “What worries the world” had an embedded Saudi report that was quite revealing on a host of issues, ranging from unemployment, to inflation, healthcare and more.
The good news for Saudi Arabia is that the majority (72 per cent) of people there believe that things in the country are heading in the right direction, but a year-on-year comparison shows that around the same time last year, some 85 per cent thought then that the country was heading in the right direction, a 13 per cent drop.
Perhaps the Yemeni war, which sees no immediate end on the horizon, is weighting on people’s minds, but the implementation of Vision 2030 through the national transformation plan (NTP 2020) might also be a factor.
Saudi Arabia recently announced the lifting of a ban on VOIP and women driving, breaking away from long standing conservative views on these issues.
Unemployment currently occupies the top spot for what concerns Saudis in the IPSOS poll, with 50 per cent of the people surveyed ranking it over Education at 28 per cent, the second highest concern.
The Saudi General Authority for Statistics shows 13.3 million as the total labor force in the kingdom as of Q2 2017, with non-Saudis comprising 7.5 million. It said that in Q3 2016, some 751.8 thousand people had been unemployed and 732 thousand as of Q2 2017.
In July, the Saudi Press Agency said that Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate had risen to 12.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, blaming the decline in oil prices.
It also showed that the total number of Saudis seeking jobs was over 906,000.
However, Vision 2030 targets a 7 per cent unemployment rate.
Death and taxes
Other areas of concern for Saudis were terrorism at 27 per cent, and taxes at 25 per cent, as per those surveyed.
During his trip to Saudi Arabia last May, U.S. President Donald Trump inaugurated the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI) in Riyadh, an issue that perhaps played on the minds of those surveyed.
Two guards were killed in a shootout between Saudi Arabian security forces and gunmen preventing a terrorist attack near the royal Al Salam Palace in Jeddah early October 7. Another attack on the grand mosque was foiled earlier in the year in June.
Mosque attacks were quite prevalent in recent years in Saudi before tighter security and crackdowns helped prevent these occurrences.
As for taxes, Saudi Arabia began in 2016 to loosen support for its subsidy programs leading to increases in fuel prices, and other utilities, all aimed at a combination of austerity measures and fulfilling Saudi 2030 aims of lowering energy consumption and increasing efficiency.
Twelve percent of those surveyed in the IPSOS poll said that they were worried about inflation. This is related to Saudi, same as Dubai, implementing a 5% VAT starting January 2018, ahead of other GCC nations who are delaying VAT until 2019 or even beyond.
How world figures compared
According to the IPSOS poll, the majority (59 per cent) of people around the world think that things in their country are on the wrong track.
China was the moist cheerful at 92 per cent, saying things were on the right track, and the worst was South Africa at 8 per cent thinking their country was on the right track.
Unemployment currently occupies the top spot for global concern with 35 per cent saying this.
Financial and political corruption stood at 33 per cent for concerned citizens globally, while 32 per cent were concerned with poverty and social inequality.
Saudi vs the world in brief
Some 18 per cent of Saudis were worried about healthcare, compared to 23 worldwide, and 23 per cent of Saudi’s concerned with crime versus 30 per cent globally.
Next came Saudi terrorism 27 per cent vs 21 per cent globally, Saudi education 28 per cent vs 20 per cent globally, Saudi taxes 25 per cent vs 16 per cent in the world (the world is used to taxes) and finally childhood obesity, Saudi at 14 per cent worried (the highest among the surveyed countries) versus 3 per cent globally.
Study in numbers
The study is conducted monthly in 26 countries around the world via the IPSOS Online Panel system and includes countries such as Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United States of America and others.
An international sample of 18,550 adults aged 16-64 were interviewed between June 23rd and July 7th, 2017, and approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis via the IPSOS Online Panel.