How can the Saudi labor market best absorb new talents and what strategies should be put in place to capitalize on the country's demographic bonus?
Almost 59% of Saudis are under the age of 30 and 49% are below 25, which means we are an extremely young country. Many are indeed entering the labor market. Within GaStat, we have two teams working on this issue. The first team provides statistics to the relevant entities, such as the Ministry of Civil Services, the Ministry of Labor, and the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), which drafts the labor market policies. With our work, we can advance decision-makers in the labor markets and give guidance in how to absorb the young population of the country into the labor market. Our work has become more advanced; we include new indicators of job seekers such as their qualifications, ages, and preferences, in addition to existing work visas and a division in public and private sector, which we have classified before. Furthermore, we classify these job seekers into regions, when combined with the other indicators, we can provide the data for unemployment policy. As our work advances, we are also working to raise greater awareness to use our resources. This is not an obstacle unique to Saudi; all sophisticated institutions across the globe face this problem. For example, not all ministries use our numbers, and that puts us under pressure to raise awareness of these services. Our counterpart in the Netherlands, for example, has a media program for its institutions, with detailed explanations of its research findings. We seek to launch a similar practice.
What trends do your current research show with regards to the growth of non-oil sectors?
We have evaluated our statistical products according to the international requirements as set out by World Bank and IMF and are currently developing a program to align our indicators and presents more in line with international practice. For example, we need to make some of our figures quarterly rather than annually—GDP is now measured quarterly. Our job seeker indicator is new. To measure the impact of Vision 2030 on the national economy, we have to look at 12 programs and develop our indicators accordingly. One of these new products was developed to support the Ministry of Housing to better serve the needs of the population in terms of housing development. In the recent years—and Vision 2030 has catalyzed this—we have tightened our collaboration with ministries and other government entities and have therefore served the public better. Another new element is our focus on SMEs, and we are developing tools and products to serve them with better insights. We listen more to their needs, and use their feedback in our research strategies. Since GaStat became independent in 2016, we have changed our way of working significantly; we are now more proactive and treat government entities as VIP customers to better serve economic development.
How can you serve international businesses and investors with your statistics?
Within GaStat, we have a team dealing with foreign investment. It closely collaborates with the Ministry of Commerce and Investment to develop the necessary indicators to measure economic growth and opportunities. It jointly consults with experts from IMF, the World Bank, and other renowned international institutions to satisfy the requirement for international businesses. A better alignment with global standards will make our data better presentable and comparable with statistics of other countries, bring more transparency to international investors, and ultimately provide better opportunities. We are currently finalizing the new data set of top indicators for international investors.
What notable trends in sustainable development goals (SDGs) have you gathered or observed?
Certain SDGs are easier to track than others; one indicator is easy to develop from surveying the data with well-known methodologies. For this, we plan to maximize those indicators and publish the progress made. During the past two years, we have coordinated with the Ministry of Planning & Economy and other entities, as they are responsible for implementing the policies. In the past two years, we have become more active in international expert teams. Recently, we were asked by the UN to be part of a group of international experts to develop formal statistics on Big Data, and have also joined a board to develop tourism statistics. In 2017, we were asked to join the United Nations Statistics Division. For SDG, we may also join the team of international experts. Each year, we discuss the SDG and then produce and publish them as well as develop the methodology and obstacles to be part of the international organization compared to the other institutions.
What ambitions have you set for the General Authority for Statistics?
We want to move the General Authority for Statistics from good to great. On the basis of our statistics, it takes an average of six years to change an organization to the point where they become an instrumental and involved entity in a country, while also interacting with international partners. We have a four-year plan to change how we produce statistics and have developed a roadmap to change our style. We should work in three dimensions and six areas. The first dimension is the customer, including the media, the public sector, the private sector, and international organizations, and understanding how to interact with them. The second dimension is quality, and we should take our task as official statistics producer seriously. The third dimension is rethinking the statistical sectors and structure our data in, for example, education, environment, and economical. Then, there are six focus areas in our master plan. The first is strategy, which should be redesigned to become more customer based. Second comes international alignment of indicators and by 2020, we strive to comply 100% with regional and global standards. The third area is on the methodology, and we want to be at the forefront of developing new methodologies, like we do in the international expert team for Big Data for the UN. Data collection is our fourth focus, especially developing new ways of collecting data with the use of technology. Statistical awareness is the fifth area of focus; it is our problem when customers do not use our data—it means we should improve to keep up with the change. The last area is on governance and our organizational structure. We should restructure ourselves and get more involved in other institutions. That way, we can become a global reference point for any international statistics requirements about the Kingdom.