High unemployment among Saudi female university graduates


A study conducted by Booz and Co. for global management and strategy consultation, showed that 78.3% of female university graduates in Saudi Arabia are unemployed as well as over 1,000 Ph.D. holders.

According to the report, thousands of women graduate from Saudi universities each year who fail to find a job due to their area of specialization which were described as “routine” and “theoretical.” Women’s studies, the report added, are almost restricted to education and health.

The study explained that since 1992, female participation in the job market in Saudi has increased by three fold as it leaped from 5.4% to 14.4%. The number, however, remains the lowest in the Gulf region, according to Saudi newspaper al-Sharq.

Ahmed al-Bahkalai, head of the Jazan branch of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, said that employment basically depends on the grades of each graduate.

“It is much easier for graduates with higher grades to find a job and this is the case in any country in the world,” he said.

Irrespective of the reason for unemployment, argued psychologist Elham Hassan, getting an education then failing to find a job has a very negative impact on both individuals and society.

“Families see education as an investment because they know that their children will later work and help them with expenses,” she said.

When graduates are just added to the long list of the jobless, they themselves start suffering from psychological problems that can eventually lead to suicide or crime and their families and the entire society suffer financially.

Jamila al-Eissa, professor of history at the University of Dammam, disagrees that there are some specializations preferred by girls, like humanities, that make graduates unable to find a job.

“There are many schools all over the kingdom that need teachers in those specializations,” she said.

Eissa added that unlike the traditional concept, graduates of schools of humanities should not be confined to teaching.

“Graduates of history, geography, and Arabic department can work in the media, tourism, the municipalities and other government sectors that have started opening departments for women.”

For Eissa, the issue with female unemployment is not specialization as much as lack of a defined plan of the distribution of university graduates among different institutions.

“Thorough studies have to be conducted in order to determine the needs of the Saudi job market and accordingly decide where to make the best of each specialization,” she concluded.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)