The vast majority of young men and women in Saudi Arabia are single, a new survey has found to highlight some of the many social and cultural attitudinal changes within the traditionally conservative country.
A little over 66 per cent of the kingdom's population between the ages of 15-34 are not married, according to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, a government agency that is responsible for the compilation of data and conducting national surveys.
Titled 'Saudi Youth in Numbers', the report, published to coincide with International Youth Day 2020, a UN led initiative to raise awareness of the challenges facing young people, found that as many as 67 per cent of the kingdom's population were under the age of 34. This booming youth population, economic forecasters have warned, is likely to put intense pressure on the country's rulers to find new jobs.
Only 32 per cent of the population in the 15-34 age group are married, a figure that may come across as a surprise to many given the conservative nature of the country. Unlike most other countries, marriage is not banned for those under 18 but the government has placed a curb on the practice by introducing a law that requires special approval from a specialised court to determine whether the marriage would harm the minors in question and if it is in their best interests.
READ: Saudi women join forces to champion the changing role of women
The number of unmarried men is considerably higher than women. Comparing both genders, the report found that 75.6 per cent of men had never married while that figure was only 56 per cent for women.
Within the age category where women traditionally got married in Muslim majority countries, 25-34, the rate of unmarried females reached 43 percent while for men it was almost half that at 23 per cent.
Both genders cited "high cost of living" and "high cost of marriage" for delaying tying the knot. The desire to finish education was cited as the second highest reason
The report published figures on attitudes to sports, education and the economy. Amongst other interesting findings is the rate of literacy in the kingdom. The report pointed out that the illiteracy rate decreased significantly among Saudi youth in the 15-34 age group.
While unemployment rates for females are declining, 57.8 per cent of women between 15-24 years of age did not have a job. That figure is 17 per cent for males within the same age category.
READ: Saudi princess under house arrest for wanting reforms