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||Population Bomb Saudi Arabia
- Abdullah is a social conservative who has shown
little interest in confronting his country's demographic dilemma. Saudi Arabia
has been probably the fastest-growing nation on Earth. Its population, now
about 18 million (plus 5 million or 6 million foreign workers) grew about
4.4 percent a year from 1980 to 1998. The average Saudi family now has six
or seven children. A population of 33.7 million is projected for
- Per-capita income has dropped from a peak of
$19,000 in 1981 to $7,300 in 1997, measured in constant 1997 dollars -- a
stunning reversal. Forty-three percent of the kingdom's 22 million people
are 14 years of age or younger, and unemployment is rampant, according to
a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Saudi schools and universities are graduating
students -- 343,000 in 1999 -- far faster than the economy is creating jobs.
However, Saudi young people have shown little interest in taking over the
lower-paying jobs held by foreigners working in the kingdom.
- The government can no longer support the generous
social welfare system it created at the height of the oil boom. Nor can it
spend to revive its stagnant economy. From a peak of $227 billion in 1981,
its oil revenue dropped to only $31 billion five years later, and remained
at less than $60 billion annually throughout the 1990s (in constant 2000
dollars), according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This year, oil revenue
is projected to reach only about $48 billion.
- Despite their vast reserves, the Saudis have
little influence on oil revenue, which is determined more by global supply
and demand than by anything they can do unilaterally
- Falling state revenue has contributed to a
sharp decline in the number of Saudi students coming to the United States
for higher education, a fact that worries some Saudis. "Our children won't
be as close to Americans as we have been," said one successful Saudi
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