Labor Market Research in Saudi Arabia

Labor Market Research in Saudi Arabia

EPoD developed evidence-based insights to inform policy design in Saudi Arabia’s labor markets.

EPoD developed evidence-based insights to inform policy design in Saudi Arabia’s labor markets.

In Saudi Arabia, EPoD collaborated directly with program and policy actors to conduct policy-research that bolster local labor markets and support social development.

To do this, EPoD worked with the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) in Saudi Arabia to identify labor policy priorities with the aim of producing concrete, evidence-based insights to inform better policy supporting the Saudi labor market. As with all our work, the decisions on research methodologies, results and policy recommendations rest solely with Harvard Kennedy School.

The work with HRDF focused on:

Policy-Research Process

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.

EPoD issued a request for proposals inviting researchers worldwide to submit proposals for Saudi labor market research. Applications were vetted through an independent, transparent committee – including faculty and PhD students across Harvard, EPoD staff, and senior Saudi policymakers – based on their policy relevance, academic rigor, and local engagement.

Capacity Building & Exchange

EPoD built organizational systems and leadership for evidence-based policy analysis and developing the capacity of local researchers through targeted workshops, seminars, fellowships, and exchange in Saudi, and beyond to disseminate research findings globally.

Outreach & Dissemination

Research findings were shared through symposiums, workshops, publications and policy briefs.

To date, EPoD has launched 25 research projects, led by 47 international and Saudi researchers, with funding from HRDF through three rounds of request for proposals. This research has been featured by VoxDev, the World Bank, and the Wall Street Journal, among others, and is published in top economic journals such as the American Economic Review and National Bureau of Economic Research.

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 seeks to develope concrete, evidence-based insights to inform better policy design in Saudi Arabia’s labor markets.


Women's challenges to driving remain four years post-driving ban in Saudi Arabia.


Social acceptance of female employment is key to promoting labor force participation. 


Enhancing mentorship opportunities for high-school girls.


The importance of supporting entrepreneurial aspirations of young females.


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


Understanding Saudi College Student-Employer Matches and Preferences.