Nearly 3.3 million GCC nationals living in poverty

May 27, 2023
1 min read
Image: John Wreford/Shutterstock

An estimated 3.3 million people in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations live in poverty, a report has revealed. One in seven citizens lives in poverty in Saudi Arabia, one in ten in Oman, and one in thirteen in Bahrain.

According to a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Oman and Saudi Arabia share the highest poverty headcount rate, with 10.1 percent and 13.6 percent of their national population living in poverty, respectively. Bahrain ranks third with a headcount poverty rate of 7.5 percent. The poverty rates in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar are below 2 percent.

“The total number of nationals living in poverty in GCC countries stands at 3.3 million people, it said, adding that poverty varies substantially across the GCC.

The study pointed out that the poverty and inequality metrics were for the national population of the GCC and did not represent the average for the population as a whole. In all GCC countries, the headcount poverty and the level of expenditure inequality will be higher if resident migrants are also taken into account.

The report, based on information published by GCC national statistical offices on household income and consumption expenditure, said the estimated ESCWA mean monthly household expenditure for GCC nationals varied widely in 2021, ranging from approximately $2,100 in Oman to $12,500 in Qatar.

The poverty lines also ranged widely between $971 (Oman) and $3,841 (Qatar) per household per month across GCC countries (or $4.6 to $14.7 per day per capita). 

The study additionally highlights that poverty has decreased in the majority of GCC nations since 2010 with nearly 530,000 people being lifted out of poverty.

In Saudi Arabia alone, rates fell from 18.2 percent in 2010 to 13.6 percent in 2021, as 485,000 citizens were no longer considered poor. It notes, nonetheless, that the countries’ flourishing economies have led to the perception that their poverty rates were low or nonexistent; consequently, little effort went into investigating the prevalence and depth of poverty, it added.

The report proposes specific recommendations to tackle poverty in the GCC region, geared towards ensuring a more diversified and inclusive economy that leaves no one behind and is environmentally sustainable. They include diversifying sources of growth and reforming educational and vocational systems to provide the new skills required for future jobs.

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