To know where a nation is headed, look at its youth. Saudi Arabia’s population is heavily weighted with young people. Some 64 per cent of its 19.4 million citizens are below the age of 30. A deeper dive into the data shows that 13 to 17- year-olds now make 12 per cent of the population, the biggest ‘youth bulge’ ever seen in the kingdom.
Next year, the first members of this group will turn 18 and start marching into the country’s fast-expanding universities or enter the job market, exacerbating youth unemployment, which for those under 30 stands at 27 per cent, rising to 39.3 per cent for the 20 to 24 age group.
Saudi Arabia is an ultra-conservative country following strict Wahhabi rules of moral and social behaviour. Yet, during three years in the kingdom as a reporter, I found that twentysomething Saudis showed distinctive characteristics.