The Saudis enjoy social benefits that are
among the most generous in the world. No state income
tax is levied, despite the fact that schools - including
higher education - and health care are free of charge
for citizens. There is also a comprehensive social
insurance system and the prices of gasoline,
electricity, water, gas and airline tickets are
subsidized by the state.
Any adult Saudi who is not able is entitled to a
piece of land and a generous interest-free mortgage.
Widows, disabled people and others who may find it
difficult to manage themselves receive state support. At
the same time, the gaps are huge between them and the
richest people in society, especially the members of the
royal family who receive great apanage (maintenance by
Countryaah Official Site:
Official statistics for population in Saudi Arabia, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Almost everyone has access to clean water, although
it must be transported in tankers in its own way. In
2002, the government decided to allow the privatization
of state hospitals.
Welfare care is now more of a problem than child
mortality and infectious diseases. Dieting is often
unhealthy and many people move very little. Obesity is
common. According to a 2015 report, Saudi Arabia is one
of the ten countries in the world where diabetes is most
Alongside this Saudi society, millions of foreign
guest workers live under completely different
conditions. Asian women work as servants in Saudi homes,
where they are almost lawless and extradited to the
Women are generally discriminated against. All women
must have a male guardian (wali)). Many
important issues require permission from a male
relative. Nor can women stay in public places without a
comprehensive veil, and the right to drive is of late
date. In the fall of 2017, the ban on driving was lifted
and women were allowed to start driving licenses in the
summer of 2018. Driving is one of several areas where
Saudi women have carried out campaigns to expand their
rights. A campaign against the stringent clothing
requirements is expressed by the fact that the women
wear their all-black garment, called abaya, with the
It has happened in a number of cases that young women
protested against freedom by fleeing abroad. Some have
been taken home by forced relatives, while others have
been granted refugee status and asylum in other
countries, including Australia. In 2019, 18-year-old
Rahaf al-Qunun managed to get an international
discussion on the problem by publishing his case via
social media. She was granted asylum in Canada for her
own part after the UN deemed her need for protection.
The regime has subsequently extended women's rights,
including the right to travel, although the system of
having a male guardian has not been abolished.
If a woman marries a foreign man he does not get
Saudi citizenship. In the judicial process, the woman is
not counted as the equal man.
The family and the family form the basis of society.
Loyalty and solidarity within the family are
fundamental. For both nomads and non-nomads, the
individual's place in society is defined primarily by
customer affiliation. The hierarchies exist both within
a clan and between clans. At the top of the notch is the
multi-thousand-headed royal family of Al Saud. The
Saudis' loyalty to the state is thus based on an ancient
The hierarchies do not mean that the leader of a clan
- who may be given the honorary title of shaykh (sheikh)
- governs simply. Decisions are made according to the
ideal in consensus. A sheikh gains reverence through his
ability to mediate in conflicts and induce everyone to
pull in the same direction. Generosity, selflessness and
hospitality are highly valued. There is a strong ideal
of equality, while respect for the elderly is central.
The kinship is counted on the father. There is
contact with the woman's family, but the children belong
to the father and his family, not to the mother. This
means that the woman does not have the right to custody
or even intercourse with her children during a divorce.
A married woman is counted as part of the household, but
not by the family. She keeps her own name in marriage.
Divorces are relatively common, as are divorced
Marriage is not a religious ritual, but a civil
contract governed by religion. The parties themselves
may agree on terms to apply. Normally, the man pays a
morning gift to the woman. Although marriage is
considered to be an agreement between two parties, it is
normally only the man who can divorce. According to
Islam, a man can have up to four wives, provided he can
support them and treat them equally. It is mostly among
religiously conservative groups and among the very
affluent - not least in the royal family - that polygamy
occurs. Marriages are often arranged, although nowadays
it is common for couples to settle for marriage. Within
the most senior clans, marriages outside the clan have
traditionally been avoided.
In the past, a person's position was more important
than the assets. With the huge economic upswing that oil
has brought, wealth and material standards have gained
greater social value. A new middle class has emerged and
awareness has increased about the huge gaps between the
country's elite and the rest of the population.
The family is both social security and provides
employment opportunities. Anyone running a business is
expected to prepare a place for relatives who need work.
Men and women are separated in working life.
Bodywork, even in the home, is largely performed by
foreign guest workers. Many families stay with servants,
and Saudi children are largely raised by foreign
FACTS - SOCIAL CONDITIONS
6 per 1000 births (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean
100.0 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to
100.0 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a
percentage of GDP
5.8 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person
$ 1,147 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament
20 percent (2018)
Border agreement with Qatar
Saudi Arabia and Qatar agree on border crossing
between countries; the agreement is signed after the
turn of the year.
Suspected Islamists in court
Trials begin against 991 suspected al-Qaeda members,
for a series of terrorist crimes committed since 2003.