Saudi Arabia Emerges as a Global Construction Leader Amidst Significant Labor Shortages

Saudi Arabia Emerges as a Global Construction Leader Amidst Significant Labor Shortages

Uncover how Saudi Arabia dominates global construction with a +72% activity rate, despite labor shortages. Explore the challenges and opportunities in this booming industry.

Saudi Arabia is experiencing a construction boom unlike any other, positioning itself as a global leader in the industry, according to the latest findings from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). 

The Q4 2023 report highlights an impressive construction activity rate of +72 percent, driven largely by infrastructure and public works projects, which are currently soaring at an activity level of +82 percent.

Despite these robust numbers, the Kingdom is grappling with a significant challenge: a shortage of both skilled and unskilled labor. 

This gap is slowing down the pace at which projects can be completed and is becoming a major concern for industry leaders.

Key Challenges in Saudi Arabia’s Construction Sector

Skilled Labor ShortageOver 70% of firms report difficulty in finding professionals with the right skills for construction projects.
Unskilled Labor ShortageMore than a third of companies struggle to hire general laborers.
Rising CostsIncreases in the cost of diesel, steel, and cement are impacting project budgets.
Localisation PoliciesRequirements for using national resources affect project planning and execution.

Opportunities and Innovations

Despite these hurdles, there is a silver lining. 

The flurry of construction projects, including the Kingdom’s ambitious “giga-projects” like NEOM, is not only boosting the local economy but also enhancing Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports. 

The development of entertainment facilities is another area where significant positive impacts on the construction market are observed.

To keep up with the demand, over $1.1 trillion in mega-projects are planned or underway, requiring innovative solutions to address the labor shortages. 

As noted by a construction industry professional in Riyadh, “the significant shift of trades from nearby GCC due to the volume of work contributes to the increase of non-oil exports of KSA.”


As Saudi Arabia continues to lead the charge in global construction activity, addressing the labor shortages and competency issues remains crucial. 

With pioneering solutions and strategic planning, the Kingdom can maintain its momentum and solidify its status as the global construction capital, promising a robust future for its construction sector.

Industry Insights

According to one respondent in Dammam, major skill shortages are impacting the sector, with many workers lacking essential project management skills such as Front-End Loading planning. 

This highlights the need for enhanced training and recruitment strategies to build a workforce capable of sustaining the industry’s growth.

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