65 years and over: 3%
Life expectancy at birth: 74.3 years
Population in 2050: 58.24m
To know where a nation is headed, look at its youth.
Next year, the first members of this group will turn 18 and start marching into the country's fast-expanding universities or enter the job market, exacerbating youth unemployment, which for those under 30 stands at 27 per cent, rising to 39.3 per cent for the 20 to 24 age group.
This group is being shaped by forces beyond the government's control, ranking as No 1 among Arab youth in the use of Twitter and in daily face-time on the internet. This window on the world gives its members new perspectives and makes them more inclined than their parents ever were to re-examine what they are being taught, even when it comes to religion.
They demand more personal autonomy in choosing what they study at university, what career they pursue, what they do in their spare time and whom they marry. Young women want these things with even more fervour than the men and are increasingly assertive about their right to work, study, and engage in public life.
Politically, they all love King
Among politically aware young people -- not a majority but a group whose ranks are increasing -- there is resentment over a lack of political rights. But even these youths want change to be gradual.
In sum, Saudi youth are more evolutionary than revolutionary. And yet government can't be complacent.
Political awareness among Saudi youth is likely to grow because of crises and instability in the region. Both secular and Islamist- inclined young Saudis are not immune to the gusts from these conflicts. Young Shiites in the
Sending thousands of students abroad to study will also create challenges for such a conformist society. The King Abdullah Scholarship programme now has 145,000 students studying abroad, half in the US. When they return, they will want well-paid jobs and be keen to implement new ideas in business, technology and even politics.
Finally, as their younger siblings, who make up the 'youth bulge', move into their 20s in coming years, pressure on government for jobs, more affordable housing and political expression will intensify.
The Saudi monarchy has some breathing space. Already, it is opening up jobs for its people by obliging companies to hire fewer expatriates. It is also opening doors for women, allowing them to work in retail and to participate in politics, albeit in a limited way --
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