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Saudi Arabia boosts education spending
Government channels youth potential towards productivity and prosperity.
August 25, 2013 1:22 by Haifa Badi Uz Zaman
With an unemployment rate that stands at 30 per cent, the Saudi government is spending 25 per cent of its annual budget on education with the aim to empower its youth population and to ensure economic progress.
Currently positioned as the number one spender on education globally, the World Bank reports Saudi’s literacy rate has risen, from 30 per cent in 1970 to 97 per cent in 2013.
A staggering 50 per cent of the Saudi population is under 25 years of age and accounts for the “youth bulge” the country is currently experiencing.
Economists often debate about the large youth demographic in the kingdom and wonder whether it will become an economic advantage for the country or a burden. The unemployment rate of 30 per cent among 15 to 25 year olds highlights this important concern, but the large number of young people also offers promising opportunities for growth, since youth ushers in talent, innovation, and a large workforce.
High competition from expatriate workers and a rising number of young people seeking local jobs over the next decade poses a growing concern for the Saudi government – how to channel the large youth demographic towards positive and productive outcomes. The government has pledged to substantially increase investment in education in answer to this concern.
Pearson’s director of qualifications in the Middle East, Mark Andrews, says: “Equipping young people with effective education and training is critical to ensuring the youth bulge becomes an asset – and not a liability.”
Pearson, the world’s leading education company, cited a report by the International Monetary Fund that was released in July, which explains that improving competition in the private sector could also majorly decrease youth unemployment in Saudi Arabia.
Andrews adds that numerous local employers are of the opinion that the education system does not necessarily prepare graduates with essential skills. Acquiring the right professional skills is highly important for long-term prosperity and stability.
A vast youth population and exponentially rising literacy rates in Saudi positions it as a regional economic powerhouse, so the most important concern for the government is to channel the youth potential towards productivity and prosperity for the country.