Labor Market Research in Saudi Arabia

Labor Market Research in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has great reserves of human capital in its relatively young and highly educated population. How can the labor market be optimized to tap those reserves and ensure citizen wellbeing, especially for underrepresented groups such as women and youth?

Saudi Arabia has great reserves of human capital in its relatively young and highly educated population. How can the labor market be optimized to tap those reserves and ensure citizen wellbeing, especially for underrepresented groups such as women and youth?

In Saudi Arabia, EPoD collaborates directly with policymakers in the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) and the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) to identify opportunities for data and economic analysis to bolster local labor markets and support social development.

EPoD’s engagement with MLSD and HRDF aims to produce concrete, evidence-based insights to inform better policy supporting the goals of Vision 2030 and focuses on:

Policy-Research Collaboration

Bringing together top-tier researchers and Saudi policymakers to generate in-depth knowledge on policy problems and design solutions using EPoD's Smart Policy Design and Implementation approach.

Capacity Building & Exchange

Building organizational systems and leadership for evidence-based policy analysis and developing the the capacity of local researchers through targeted workshops, fellowships, and exchange. 

Outreach & Dissemination

Sharing research findings through symposiums, workshops, publications and policy briefs.

To date, the EPoD-HRDF collaboration has funded 25 research projects led by 47 international and Saudi researchers. We are continuing to expand our engagement in Saudi Arabia and to provide new opportunities to students and researchers in the Kingdom and abroad. Click on Opportunities to view ways to get involved.

Article|June 13, 2018

On May 2, new research findings regarding the Saudi labor market were presented at a EPoD-HRDF Symposium in Riyadh.

Event|May 2, 2018

EPoD co-hosted a research symposium on Evidence Based Policy for the Saudi Arabian Labor Market.

Article|April 20, 2018

Allowing women in Saudi Arabia to drive will save families money, but how much? A new EPoD analysis explores the benefits.

News|April 20, 2018

EPoD has now opened a new round of Request for Proposals (RFP) for research related to labor markets and social development in Saudi Arabia.

News|March 26, 2018

EPoD Directors met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss ongoing policy research collaborations.

Article|March 23, 2018

Researchers from EPoD and across Harvard convened with Saudi educators and civil servants to discuss education reform.

Article|October 1, 2017

The event highlighted the unique collaboration which aims to generate rigorous empirical research to inform labor market policy.

Article|August 24, 2016

Asim Khwaja discusses transformation in the Kingdom and the future of policymaking.

Existing Research

EPoD hosts a portfolio of empirical research conducted by scholars from around the world on labor market and social development issues in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with MLSD and HRDF. The policy-research engagements use the principles of EPoD's Smart Policy Design and Implementation approach to generate in-depth knowledge of the current constraints in the areas of employment, social development, and job creation.

Click below to learn more about EPoD’s Policy-Research engagements by theme.

Human Capital Development & Job Creation

Effect of Self-control on Job Search and Human Capital Investment
          Elif Incekara-Hafalir, University of Technology Sydney
          Isa Hafalir, University of Technology Sydney

Understanding Skill Acquisition Decision Making using an Online Platform
          Asim Khwaja, Harvard University
          Jamal Haidar, Harvard University

Skill Development and Job Creation in Saudi Arabia
          Abdul Ghaffar Mughal, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies
          Fahad Alsharif, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies
          Ina Ganguli, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Exploratory Interviews On Labor Market Perceptions
          Andrew Leber, Harvard University

Employability and Unemployment

Reducing Unemployment Through Jobseeker Support
          Rema Hanna, Harvard University
          Rohini Pande, Harvard University

Saudization and Quotas

The Effects of Nitaqat on Aggregate Employment and Earnings
          Jennifer Peck, Swarthmore College
          Conrad Miller, University of California, Berkeley

Predicting Impact of Labor Market Policies
          Faiyaz Doctor, University of Essex
          Rahat Iqbal, Coventry University
          Kasim Randeree, Coventry University

Women in the Labor Market

Childcare as a Potential Barrier to Women’s Employment in Saudi Arabia
          Patricia Cortes, Boston University
          Claudia Goldin, Harvard University
          Jennifer Peck, Swarthmore College

Understanding and Shifting Social Norms of Female Labor Force Participation in Saudi Arabia
          David Yanagizawa-Drott, University of Zurich
          Leonardo Bursztyn, University of Chicago
          Alessandra González, University of Chicago

Expanding Female Access to the Job Market through Affordable Commute
          Erica Field, Duke University
          Jawaher Al-Sudairy, Harvard University
          Kate Vyborny, Duke University

Exploring Fixed Costs in Female Hiring: The Role of Adjustment Costs and Cultural Barriers
          Jennifer Peck, Swarthmore College
          Thiemo Fetzer, University of Warwick
          Claudia Eger, University of Warwick
          Mehmet Seflek, University of California Berkeley
          Saleh Alodayni, King Saud University


Youth Employment

Improving Soft Skills for Saudi Youth 
          Adriana Kugler, Georgetown University
          Farooq Ammar, Georgetown University
          Lulwah Ayyoub, Georgetown University

Information Interventions in Higher Education: Developing Career Readiness in Saudi Arabia
          Ina Ganguli, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
          Basit Zafar, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Building Non-Cognitive Values for Saudi Youth
          Asim Khwaja, Harvard University
          Jamal Haidar, Harvard University

Empowering Female Youth through Entrepreneurship and Business Leadership Development 
          Saeed Badghish, King Abdulaziz University
          Imran Ali, King Abdulaziz University
          Kristin Fabbe, Harvard Business School
          Murad, Ali, King Abdulaziz University

Peer Effects in Job Search for Saudi Youth
          Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Virginia Tech
          Sudipta Sarangi, Virginia Tech
          Wen You, Virginia Tech
          Sultan Alkhuzam, King Saud University

Tamheer on the Job Training Program
          Dr. Ammar Malik, Harvard University
          Roman Klimke, Harvard University
          Sukaina Alkuhlani, Harvard University
          Samia Sekkarie, Harvard University

Mentorship, Entrepreneurship, and Labor Market Opportunity in Saudi Arabia
          Dr. Alessandra L. González


Matching in Markets

Understanding Saudi College Student-Employer Matches and Preferences 
          Alessandra González, University of Chicago

Impact Evaluation of The Riyadh Metro Project 
          Ammar Malik, Urban Institute
          Jawaher Al Sudairy, Harvard University

A Pilot Study on Occupational Choices by Saudi Youth 
          Fahad Saleh Alolayan, King Saud University
          Yaseen Ghulam, Al Yamamah University
          Saleh Alodayni, King Saud University
          Shabbar Jaffry, University of Portsmouth
          Alexandros Apostolakis, Technological Educational Institute of Crete

Developing Guidelines for Local Labor Markets
          Dr. Jonas Bergan Draege, Harvard University
          Andrew Leber, Harvard University

Background Papers

"Back to Work in a New Economy: Background Paper on the Saudi Labor Market," summarizes existing evidence and labor policies in Saudi Arabia, identifies underlying causes of labor market constraints, and provides an economic framework for EPoD’s research-policy collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and Human Resources Development Fund. For this document, EPoD brought together 35+ researchers from top global institutions to identify the policy and theoretical grounding for further research policy collaborations. 

"The Labor Market in Saudi Arabia: Background, Areas of Progress, & Insights for the Future," updates the 2015 EPoD-HRDF background paper, incorporating recent research. It identifies policies HRDF has undertaken to accomplish the goals of Vision 2030, and provides insights from the research projects to date.

EPoD’s research seeks to generate in-depth knowledge on policy challenges in Saudi Arabia’s labor markets and to develop concrete, evidence-based insights to inform better policy design.


 The role of adjustment costs and cultural barriers in women’s employment.


Supply and demand side factors explaining unemployment reveal gender differences.


Assessing females’ perceptions of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.


Understanding the demographic profile of workers in the Saudi labor market.


How do changes in the relative size of sectors influence Saudization?


Do peer groups help facilitate job applications for Saudi youth?

For those interested in employment opportunities with the EPoD's Saudi portfolio, please see the Job & Opportunities tab.