Labor Market Research in Saudi Arabia


Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard Kennedy School, with the support of the Human Resource Development Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (HRDF), funds empirical studies of labor market issues in Saudi Arabia. EPoD is now calling for proposals from researchers for both pilot studies and full research projects, as well as small travel grants.

The Ministry of Labor of Saudi Arabia has, since the late 2000s, built a large portfolio of labor market policies to address some of the Kingdom’s key economic issues. Key policy leaders from the ministry have formed a collaboration with EPoD at Harvard Kennedy School to design a research-policy engagement around these initiatives. HRDF in Saudi Arabia has partnered with EPoD to support and catalyze this research and utilize the resulting policy outputs. The HRDF-EPoD collaboration seeks to build on the principles of EPoD's Smart Policy Design approach, generate in-depth knowledge of the current constraints in the areas of employment and job creation in Saudi Arabia, and to design and test potential policy solutions using these findings in order to improve outcomes for Saudi men, women, and youth.

Under this initiative, EPoD will fund rigorous empirical research to improve labor market outcomes in Saudi Arabia. Research can also focus on building a better bridge between economic theory and the Saudi context, though it is important that research outputs are relevant to labor policy in Saudi Arabia. The broad research priorities of this RFP are aligned with key strategic objectives identified by the Ministry, and are presented in the RFP Announcement. Additionally, our Background Paper provides a review of existing evidence and labor policies in Saudi Arabia.

If a researcher is uncertain about whether a research project is eligible for funding under this RFP, please contact Researchers who may be interested in submitting to future RFP rounds are also encouraged to contact us for further information.

The third round RFP will be launched in spring 2018. Please check back then for more information. The previous RFP can be accessed here

On October 25, 2016, Evidence for Policy Design, in coordination with the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD+) of Saudi Arabia, hosted a research symposium on Evidence Based Policy for the Saudi Labor Market in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 
Read about the event here »
Read the article on HKS website »

The Background Paper provided a foundation for this research-policy collaboration. It brought together 35+ researchers from top global institutions to identify the policy and theoretical grounding for further work. The document targets policy and academic audiences, and is organized around six key themes which emerged while conducting research:

  • Human Capital Development and Job Creation
  • Employability and Unemployment
  • Saudization and Quotas
  • Women in the Labor Market
  • Youth Employment
  • Matching in Markets

The Paper begins with an Executive Summary, which presents the economic framework through which the analysis was conducted, followed by a series of chapters that each present a contextualized theme and discuss relevant current policy responses to labor market constraints. The document also includes a detailed appendix of descriptions of each policy discussed in the chapters.

Researchers applying to the RFP should carefully consider the analytical framework and the specific policy challenges outlined in the Paper when designing their research programs.

To view the Background Paper, click here: Background Paper - April 2015


The research funded through the EPoD Evidence-Based Policy for the Saudi Labor Market initiative continues to expand and produce policy-relevant data and evidence.

To date, we have funded 25 research projects involving 48 researchers. Click below to read some of the policy insights that have been published summarizing relevant lessons from the research.


Round 1 Projects:

Accelerating Saudi Women's Integration into the Labor Market

Patricia Cortes, Boston University

Reem Al Saud, Harvard University

Claudia Goldin, Harvard University

Jennifer Peck, Swarthmore College

Marianne Bertrand, University of Chicago


Reducing Unemployment Through Jobseeker Support


Rema Hanna, Harvard University

Rohini Pande, Harvard University


Improving Soft Skills for Saudi Youth

Dr. Adriana Kugler, Georgetown University

Yulia Chentsova, Georgetown University

Lulwah Ayyoub, Georgetown University

Dr. Mohammad Gharawi, Insitute of Public Administration


The Effects of Nitaqat on Saudi Employment and Earnings

Conrad Miller, University of Berkeley

Jennifer Peck, Swarthmore College


Improving the College Admissions System to Increase Employment

Onur Kesten, Carnegie Mellon University

Understanding and Shifting Social Norms of Female Labor Force Participation in Saudi Arabia

David Yanagizawa-Drott, University of Zurich

Leo Bursztyn, University of Chicago

Sarah Omar al-Humoud, Imam University


Building Research Infrastructure for Saudi Labor Market Research

Nada Eissa, Georgetown University

Rema Hanna, Harvard University

Jennifer Peck, Swarthmore College


Round 2 Projects:


Expanding Female Access to the Job Market through Affordable Commute

Jawaher Al-Sudairy, Harvard University

Erica Field, Duke University

Kate Vyborny, Duke University


Data Driven Computational Models for Prediction and Simulation of Path Dependencies in Complex, Dynamic Labor Market System

Dr. Faiyaz Doctor, University of Essex

Dr. Rahat Iqbal, Coventry University

Dr. Kasim Randeree, Coventry University


Improving Job Search and Job Placements through Peer Effects

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Virginia Tech

Sudipta Sarangi, Virginia Tech

Wen You, Virginia Tech


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


Understanding Saudi College Student-Employer Matches and Preferences

Alessandra L Gonzalez, University of Chicago

Collaboration with Job Creation and Employment Commission

Asim Khwaja, Harvard University

Jamal Haidar, Harvard University

Logo: MoL + HRDF