Youth is biggest Stakeholder in Saudi Arabia's Future

Clock Icon Jun 26, 2024
Saudi Arabia's youth, comprising 67% of the population, are crucial in driving the nation's efforts towards economic diversification and modernization.(Source: Shutterstock)

Saudi Arabia's youth, comprising 67% of the population, are crucial in driving the nation's efforts towards economic diversification and modernization.(Source: Shutterstock)

While most nations grapple with aging populations, Saudi Arabia stands out with its burgeoning youth demographic. The youthful energy is crucial in building the nation's future, and the government is counting on them as the driving force behind its ambitious plans. The role of  youth is not just recognized but is central to the nation's strategic vision for a sustainable and prosperous future.According to recent demographic data, approximately 67% of Saudi Arabia's population is under the age of 30, with around 32% of that figure below 15.


Youthful Influence on Cultural Evolution

Those remarkable stats alone point towards the reason why in Saudi Arabia much -  if not everything - is directed towards the youth. The Saudi Arabia of today feels younger, fresher, more open, and more optimistic in its approach to life and the future. Advertisements, new ideas, revolutionary designs of clothes, layouts of coffee shops, varieties of food, and styles of music and movies are influenced by a youthful energy.

This does not mean everything old is lost, but it is being reinvented with an approach new to Saudi Arabia; before, the idea of changing, revitalising or renewing anything was considered as an unnecessary risk. As the saying goes: “The devil you know is better than the one you don’t.


Redefining Future Beyond Oil

Yet since 2017, Saudi Arabia has shifted as it developed and implemented Vision 2030. You could characterise this approach as lighter but more structured, as the economy was diversified by reducing dependence on oil and encouraging developing sectors such as technology, renewable energy, and tourism.

Implementing Vision 2030 is groundbreaking and requires fundamental changes in the mentality, social structure, and economic reality of Saudi Arabia. It requires adaptability, willingness for change, and acceptance of new realities. A lot of new energy is required, making Saudi youth the strongest stakeholders in this project.


Empowering Youth

It's in the nature of youth to more easily accept changes, move, create, and take initiatives. This is what Saudi Arabia's future needs; their innovative ideas, technological savvy and fresh perspectives are essential for diversifying the economy.

Their active participation, especially in emerging sectors such as technology, renewable energy, and tourism, will be the strongest driver for societal and economic transformations envisioned in the plan, ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for Saudi Arabia.

So it will be how the Saudi government supports and empowers its youthful population - a significant development in itself - which will be key to Vision 2030’s success.

Historically, the focus was predominantly on the oil industry; there were limited work opportunities, for young people - a consequence of a small population and even smaller job market. The country actually had little to aim for, as oil was the main income and job provider.

That has now changed as the job market has diversified. But what else needs to change to prepare youth skills and build infrastructure? One major focus is on education and training programs. The government is investing heavily in these areas to equip young Saudis with the skills needed for a knowledge-based economy.

Partnerships with leading international educational institutions, such as the collaboration with Harvard University for executive education programs, and the establishment of specialised training centres like the Saudi Technical and Vocational Training Corporation, contrast sharply with past limited efforts in vocational training and education diversification.


Empowering Entrepreneurship

There’s also a greater sense of entrepreneurship among young people. Around Saudi Arabia, there are many projects created and led by Saudis—food trucks, clothing shops, design technologies. Young Saudis can study abroad in any field they like; the more creative the course, the greater their chances of success in the country. The list of scholarship studies funded by the government includes many sectors that were until recently not respected or even unacceptable in Saudi Arabia, such as cooking and tourism.

Through initiatives like the MiSK Foundation, the government is promoting entrepreneurship by providing funding, mentorship, and resources to young entrepreneurs.

The MiSK Innovation initiative organises events like the MiSK Global Forum, connecting young innovators with industry leaders. This is a significant departure from the past, when entrepreneurial support was minimal and there were fewer opportunities for young Saudis to start their own businesses.

All of which marks a clear evolution from previous strategies, highlighting a commitment to leveraging the potential of young people to drive the nation's progress.

For example, young Saudis are now actively participating in sectors like technology, as seen with the establishment of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). And in renewable energy too, with initiatives such as the National Renewable Energy Program, there is the aim to diversify the energy mix and create jobs for young people.

Any traditional systems for job creation and development planning across the world need to be rethought in the 21st century, and Saudi Arabia is no different. But the difference for Saudi Arabia is that the potential is there for tangible change.

As Noor, a 19-year-old university student, puts it: ”Today we are heard, seen, and cared about. There are many activities that take care of young skills and talents."

This reflects the growing emphasis on youth engagement and development - and for true progress, young people must be integral to Vision 2030 and beyond.

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