Saudi Arabia’s economy minister said on Wednesday the kingdom would continue to tap into non-traditional sectors like entertainment and esports to create jobs, boost the quality of life and lure talent.
Saudi Arabia launched “Vision 2030” in 2016, an economic agenda to cut oil dependence and build new industries while investing in existing ones including energy and petrochemicals.
The kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has pushed social reforms alongside the economic agenda to help modernise the kingdom, in recent years allowing women to drive, music concerts and cinemas for the first time.
“In the past, these were seen as hopeful byproducts of an economic transformation. Today, they are seen as master ingredients for an optimum economic transformation,” the minister, Faisal al-Ibrahim, told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Saudi Arabia and fellow OPEC member and close ally the United Arab Emirates also compete for foreign capital and talent.
Saudi female participation in the labour force had reached 37%, al-Ibrahim said, beating a government target of 30% by 2030. The Saudi male unemployment rate reached 4.8%, its lowest ever, he added.
“We reached 2.2 million private sector jobs this year, which is a record high,” al-Ibrahim said.
“Moving forward, we expect the new sectors that did not exist in the past – we have sports, entertainment, culture and tourism – to play a big role,” he said, adding the government aimed to create high-quality jobs faster than the rate at which people enter the labour market.