The importance of Saudi Arabia’s youth was reaffirmed at the recent Majlis Misk conference in Riyadh, which discussed young people's potential to drive the transformation of the Kingdom in line with the Vision 2030 reform plan.
The conference was hosted in September by the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (Misk Foundation), chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and featured discussions and talks centered on Saudi Arabia’s human capital and national development.
“I believe that Saudi Arabia’s greatest resource is not oil. Rather it is its human capital in the form of the Kingdom’s aspirational young people who are more than willing to participate in the decision-making process,” said Mark Thompson, an associate professor at King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals.
The government should ensure that young Saudis feel that they can contribute to the changes and be heavily involved in the decision-making processes related to Vision 2030 plans, the associate professor said in his speech.
More than half of the Saudi Arabian population is currently under 25. The Kingdom's youth are a central part of Vision 2030, the sweeping set of programs and reforms announced in 2016 which are set to liberalize the economy and reduce dependence on oil revenues. The project aims to create new jobs for Saudi Arabian youth in key sectors including tourism and entertainment, which the Kingdom is rapidly developing.
“If young nationals understand they can make meaningful contributions to national development, then in all probability, many will contribute,” added Thompson.
Thompson’s remarks were based on his research for his book “Being Young, Male, and Saudi: Identity and Politics in a Globalized Kingdom,” which was published September 30, 2019. His research is supported by a recent survey of young Saudi Arabians on their attitudes to the Kingdom’s transformation.
Findings from the 11th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey released in April revealed that the vast majority of young Saudi Arabians say their country is headed in the right direction, the economy is on the right track, and the government is effectively addressing issues most important to young people.
The survey is based on 3,300 face-to-face interviews conducted by international research firm PSB between January 6 and 29, 2019 with young Arab nationals aged 18-24 in 15 states in the Middle East and North Africa, with a 50:50 male female split.
Nearly nine-in-ten (89 per cent) are confident that Vision 2030 will succeed in securing the future of the Saudi Arabian economy and nearly as many (83 per cent) say their government has the right policies to address the issues most important to young people.
In contrast, only 54 per cent of young Arabs across the region express confidence in their respective government’s policies on issues key to young people.
Thompson said that given Saudi Arabia’s demographic reality, “failure to engage with and consult young nationals about issues that impact their lives is no longer just an option: It is a necessity.”
The Misk Foundation runs numerous initiatives and events, including media forums, policy discussions and talks, and “bootcamps” for startup businesses and entrepreneurs.
It also hosts an annual Misk Global Forum. This year’s event is taking place in Riyadh, November 12-14, with the theme “Work, Reworked.”