Foreigners makeup over 40% of Saudi population, census shows

Foreigners makeup over 40% of Saudi population, census shows
The latest Saudi Arabian census revealed that foreigners make up 13.4 million people out of the country’s 32.2 million population.
2 min read
01 June, 2023
1 in four people who live in Saudi Arabia are foreigners [Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

More than 40 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population is made up of foreign nationals, according to the Saudi Census 2022 organised by the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics. 

The Saudi Arabian population stands at 32.2 million with 18.8 million Saudi nations and 13.4 million foreigners - which make up 41.6 percent.  

The number of foreign residents has dropped from the peak of 14.6 million in 2016 after Riyadh imposed extra fees on families of foreign workers. More than a million expats left the country during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. 

Saudi authorities however have eased restrictions on foreign workers in the hope of attracting more talent from abroad to help with its drive to diversify the economy. 

Several rights groups have criticised Saudi Arabia’s treatment of foreign workers, and have called on Riyadh to protect foreign workers from abuse, violence and deportation. 

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The census - the first in 12 years - also revealed Saudi Arabia’s median age is 29 years old, and that 63 percent of Saudis are under the age of 30. 

The kingdom’s Economy and Planning Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim said that the census was the most accurate in Saudi Arabia’s history, and added that "[its] outputs will be a key pillar for planning and decision-making... and supporting the investment environment in the kingdom".

The kingdom’s large population highlights the challenges facing the Saudi government, as Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman attempts to diversify the economy away from oil and create millions of new jobs.