04/17/2004, 00.00
Saudi Arabia
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Downward spiral of unemployment and juvenile delinquency

Riad (AsiaNews) – Despite government efforts to develop employment jobless youth rates have increased to 13%, with a 0.5% increase in just this year. This is what has emerged from a report produced by Brad Bourland, head of Saudi American Bank's research offices which since 1999 has enjoyed ever greater authority in the analysis of the country's problems.   

The bank's research points out the rapid increase in unemployment, which in 1990 stood at 7.6%. In the same period the number of foreigners residing in the kingdom increased from 5.02 to 5.7 million out of a total population of  21 million. The number of foreigners currently unemployed stands a 500,000. Unofficial estimates affirm that today Saudi unemployment is much higher at around 35%.   

To slow down the crisis the government has tried to "saudize" employment, favoring local goods and services to those of foreign entities.

The high rate of unemployment among youth seems to be the cause of the growing crime rate. According to a report released by The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency at the end of 2003 crime rates among jobless youth grew by 320 % from 1990 to 1996. By 2005 the crime rate is expected to grow by 136%. This figure is particularly significant since until just a few years ago Saudi Arabia had a low crime rate, so much so that the country could  boast being practically crime-free.

Its "crime-free" status was attributed to rigorous application of the "Sharia" (Islamic law) allowing for the decapitation of murderers, drug dealers, rapists and adulterers. Thieves can be still punished by having their hands cut off.

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