Living and Working in Riyadh: Building a City of Global Talent

Hanaa Almoaibed

Since the launch of Saudi Vision 2030 in April 2016, several initiatives to develop Riyadh have been announced and many have become cornerstones of the capital’s identity. New entities, initiatives, strategies, and policies have been developed to maximize both hard (geography, natural characteristics) and soft (infrastructure, economy, society) features of the city. While these initiatives will inevitably have economic effects both locally and across the country, this article discusses how these transformations and developments influence Riyadh’s attractiveness to talent from other cities and from abroad. When considering factors that make a location attractive, economic opportunities, labor market policies, housing, education, and training are all variables that influence people’s decisions to live and work in specific places.

In 2021, HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC), shared his aspirations for the development of Riyadh. They include an ambition to transform the city into a top global city and doubling its population to 15–20 million by 2030 This ambition advances the initial goal of RCRC, an entity that is managing many of the current changes and was established in 1974 to oversee the urban, socioeconomic, development of the capital. Fahad Al-Rasheed, former CEO of RCRC, further articulated the ambition, which is built on four key pillars: economic growth, enhancing the quality of life in the city, developing the talents of the city, especially of and for young people, and finally, exponentially growing the population and the infrastructure that will support this. Questions one may ask are: Do efforts to achieve these objectives vis-a-vis Riyadh align with recognized global standards of city attractiveness? Moreover, since talent is a key ingredient in economic growth, and considering trends of talent mobility globally, and workplace transformations, what would drive people to choose to relocate to, and work in, Riyadh? What are the criteria of location attractiveness? How can we evaluate the efforts that are underway in Riyadh? And how can the city’s culture, innovation, and infrastructural development contribute to creating jobs and drawing in talent?