The Saudi government released new unemployment figures for the Kingdom - the numbers represent a disturbing trend that must, and should, have the royal family worried. Unemployment in a monarchy often leads to civil unrest.
Overall unemployment in the Kingdom - among Saudis, not the large number of foreigners who work in the country - is over 10 percent, a slight rise from a year earlier. While that is bad enough, the unemployment number for the 20-24 age group was well over 40 percent. The numbers for the 25-29 age group were not much better.
This high unemployment among young Saudis, many of whom have been trained at the finest schools, colleges and universities in the United States and Europe, is a potential ticking time bomb for the House of Sa'ud (the royal family). These young Saudis have earned degrees and received advanced training, hoping to return home to a good job in one of the world's wealthiest countries, only to find that most of the jobs to which they aspire are filled by foreigners or Saudis with influence with the ruling family.
Foreign workers, who work in all sectors of the economy from senior executive positions to the most menial labor, make up about one third of the total population of the country, which is just over 25 million people. While some of the more specialized skills are unique to the foreign workers, many of the jobs could be done by Saudis, especially those with Western training.
Over the last 20 years, there has been an program to "Saudi-ize" many managerial and technical jobs, replacing foreign workers with educated Saudis. Many employers are reluctant to hire the Saudis, as the young Saudis are perceived to be not as capable as the foreigners and too demanding of high salaries and perks.
Today's unemployment numbers are just the tip of the iceberg of the problems facing the House of Sa'ud. Half of the rapidly growing Saudi population is less than 20 years old - 40 percent are under 15. As these young people reach employment age, the government will be challenged to create the conditions for meaningful employment opportunities.
The king - or the Saudi government, it's the same thing - needs to be sensitive to this issue. If the day-to-day aspirations, and that includes access to the political system as well as jobs, of the upcoming generations are not addressed, these youth will be the nexus of unrest. They will be ripe for another calling - it is not coincidence that one of the most powerful Islamist movements is named al-Dawa' (the call).
King 'Abdullah and his brothers ignore the young, educated - and unemployed - Saudis at their peril. These disaffected youth could be their downfall.