ISSN 2330-717X

Saudi Arabia: Census 2020 To Play Key Role In Kingdom’s Reforms – Analysis


Minister of Economy and Planning Dr. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri has announced that “Census 2020” will take place on March 17, 2020. The upcoming fifth Saudi Arabian census is going to be a unique opportunity to gather metric-driven data that will better inform all stakeholders of the direction of the Kingdom’s socioeconomic reforms under Vision 2030. It is a national event.

Census 2020 intends to capture the demographic landscape with improved methods and means that go deep into the Kingdom’s core. This means that the census will provide a dataset to be used as a reliable basis for conducting the studies and research required by the country’s development programs and plans.

The census will also provide statistical data and indicators to measure changes in population characteristics, and to conduct local, regional and international comparisons. Saudi Arabia has conducted five previous censuses — in 1962, 1974, 1992, 2004, and 2010 — but the first is usually no longer used as it did not cover the whole resident population. The 1974 census was the first comprehensive population survey in Saudi history. As of the last census, the Kingdom’s population was 27,136,977. According to the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat), the estimated total population of Saudi Arabia in 2018 was 33.41 million, including 9 million foreigners.

Naturally, all Saudi public and private sectors are to cooperate and collaborate in this census. There will be a comprehensive information infrastructure to cover all national development resolutions, which will be reflected in the services provided to citizens and residents.

Census 2020 will be Saudi Arabia’s first registered census that depends on administrative records, such as resident ID, and establishments’ records collected form the data of the Ministry of Commerce and Investment and other government entities. This type of model is based on the system used by the US Census Bureau.

This census will be linked with the national address, and electronically connected to many government-related entities, such as the National Information Center, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Housing, Saudi Post, and many other sectors associated with the data of citizens, residents, and housing. In other words, Census 2020 will be an excellent opportunity to data mine results and make more specific policy recommendations.

It is worth mentioning that the census is an integrated process that collects, prepares, publishes and analyzes the demographic, economic and social data associated with the nation’s population and housing, along with their geographical distribution during a specific period of time. Important developments such as Qiddiya as an entertainment center and job generator, the Red Sea project, and others will build up local capacity.

It is significant that Al-Tuwaijri, who is also chairman of the board of directors of GaStat, is raising awareness of the importance of the census and the value and utility of the data. GaStat is raising its standards to new heights by adopting the latest technologies and making available public data that observers are able to access to conduct their own analyses.

GaStat is already publishing vital statistics that are helpful with robust datasets. Over time, GaStat will develop Census 2020 so that the data collection effort only enhances already solid attempts to understand the Kingdom’s shifting demography and its impact on Saudi Arabia’s reform program.

Importantly for GaStat and other statisticians, the gathering of the data must suffer from as little error as possible. This is why Saudi statisticians are working with the US Census Bureau on adopting best practices. These include the mapping of the Kingdom according to legal and administrative entities, such as provinces, governorates, holy areas, economic zones, ZIP code areas, school districts, and voting districts. Statistical entities include regions, statistical tracts, statistical block groups, urban areas, and the subdivisions of governorates. Thus, Census 2020 will be thorough and the results known practically immediately.

Statistical comparisons will be important as Saudi Arabia transitions its economy, with the resulting social impact. The necessity to have a clear understanding of the country’s demographic make-up helps scope and re-scope programs, especially those at the regional level and in terms of housing under the Ministry of Housing’s Sakani program.

Overall, Census 2020 is going to provide a clear view into the ongoing landscape of the Kingdom’s demography and provide new avenues of requirements as the country continues its historic transition.

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Dr. Theodore Karasik

Dr. Theodore Karasik is a senior advisor to Gulf State Analytics and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Lexington Institute in Washington, D.C. He is a former Advisor and Director of Research for a number of UAE institutions. Dr. Karasik was a Lecturer at the Dubai School of Government, Middlesex University Dubai, and the University of Wollongong Dubai where he taught “Labor and Migration” and “Global Political Economy” at the graduate level. Dr. Karasik was a Senior Political Scientist in the International Policy and Security Group at RAND Corporation. From 2002-2003, he served as Director of Research for the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy. Throughout Dr. Karasik’s career, he has worked for numerous U.S. agencies involved in researching and analyzing defense acquisition, the use of military power, and religio-political issues across the Middle East, North Africa, and Eurasia, including the evolution of violent extremism. Dr. Karasik lived in the UAE for 10 years and is currently based in Washington, D.C. Dr. Karasik received his PhD in History from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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