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I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay

I received a text message ordering me to complete the 2022 Saudi National Census. As is often the case here, they don’t mess about with the message. “Participation in the Saudi Census is mandatory by law. Non-participation can lead to monetary fines and penalties. Please fill in the self-enumeration questionnaire on the following link…… before May 25.”

But before doing that I had a different administrative task to complete - as we had recently moved homes (we changed compounds) -  I had to log on to the Saudi Post portal and register the new address. This proved to be impossible as the new address wasn’t accepted, despite the compound being well established. So I just left my registered address as the previous one. Shouldn’t be a problem, should it?

So I registered for the census on line. National identity (Iqama number) and Absher (national systems database) password. With the amount of data the government holds on everyone I was surprised they need to hold a census at all. But I digress. First up, confirm your address. So I input the previous address as it would correlate with the Saudi Post records. Right? Wrong! Here’s the message I received… 


We will confirm your updated address details when we visit you” Yikes!

Next up, confirm your household as at 10 May. Despite Elaine having been out of the country at that time, I had to include her.

The personal details that we were asked for included (all from drop-down menu options, no freeform entries):

·       Where you live

·       Where you lived in the last 5 years

·       If you had ever lived In another country (and name it (not them))

·       What your my mother tongue?

·       What is your marital status?

·       Country of birth?

·       Father’s and mother’s countries of birth?

·       What year you arrived in KSA?

·       Are you enrolled in any educational establishment?

·       Highest level of education attained? / What field of study?

·       Employment details…

… and this was the fun question. No option to freeform fill “Railway accident investigator”. Or even “Civil servant / public sector employee”. No, I had to pick the correct one from a drop-down list that must be the world’s longest. Possibly 1,000 choices. The choices were mind-boggling, ranging from the Grand Mufti (I wonder what happens if two people fill that one in?) to petrol station attendant (I hope the census was available in all their minority Asian languages). On the way browsing the list there were some that were unlikely to be found in the UK equivalent. I wonder how many of the following people there are in these roles:

-         Attorney General

-         Village Chief

-         Crustacean Farm manager


-         The Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque Operations Manager

-         Holy Quran Memorizer

-         Professional Ice Sport Coach

-         Cameleer

-         Falcon Trainer

-   Happiness Specialist


-        Desert Guide 

-  Seller of Gas Cylinder’s

-  Clown (yes really)        


-         Sharia Sanctions Executor

-         Mushroom Cultivator

-         Milkmaid (no milkman choice)

-         Silkworm Rearer

-         Ostrich Breeder

-         Lumberjack


-         Bushmeat Hunter

-         Mosaic Installer

-         Chimney Cleaner

-         Underwater Welder

-         Inflatable Musical Instruments Maker and Repairer

-         Knitter

-         Fishing Net Weaver

-         Cottage Cheese Manufacturer


-         Mattress Maker

-         Oyster Diver

-         Fake Flower Manufacturer

-         Used Tires Reconstruction Worker

-         Buttonhole Machine Operator

-         Balloon Making Machine Operator

-         Dates Fumigator Operator


-         Operator of Railway Signals

-         Concrete Mixer Driver

-         Wheelbarrow Worker

-         Packing the Shelves Worker

-         Shoe Polisher

-         Peddler

-         Threat Hunter


But nothing for me.

Next was my employer’s details and I had to mark on a digital map the location where I work.

Then my monthly salary. The choices were:

-         1 – 999 SAR (up to £200)

-         1,000 – 2,999 (up to £600)

-         3,000 – 4,999 (up to £1,000)

-         5,000 – 9,999 (up to £2,000)

-         10,000 – 19,999 (up to £4,000)

-         20,000 – 29,999 (up to £6,000)

-         30,000 – 39,999 (up to £8,000)

-         40,000 – 59,999 (up to £12,000)

-         60,000 – 79,999 (up to £16,000)

-         Over 80,000

Next, a warning:


So I pressed Yes.

Then some health questions. As I batted these off saying I was healthy, I have no idea how intrusive the follow-up questions would have been. The potential drop-down list could well be eye-watering.

So that was me. Next Elaine, and as she is not employed the completion was much quicker. All I had to do was explain what she might be doing instead of working, and here were the choices:

-         Studying

-         Taking care of the home / family

-         Doing an unpaid apprenticeship / internship

-         Farming or fishing to produce food for the family

-         Retired, pensioner

-         Long term illness / injury / disability

However there were additional questions: Any births in the last 12 months?

Now that the family were accounted for, the next section was about where and how we lived. Options were:

-         Traditional house

-         Floor in a traditional house

-         Apartment in a multi-story building

-         Apartment in a villa

-         Apartment in a traditional house

-         Tent

-         Encasement / shack

And then who owns the property. The usual options are enhanced by “Provided by Philanthropist”.

Next there is a room count, and we had to declare the number of bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms. After I completed this section I had to react to a warning which suggested that I didn’t really live in a villa. But as none of the other options fitted, I had taken that option.


Then it was the supplier of electric services, internet, water and sewerage services.

Finally it was the languages of communication in the home.

So there you are, the Saudi census 2022. An interesting evening exploring the options. Oh – I nearly forgot to say what profession I chose. I was so tempted with Lumberjack or Happiness Specialist, but in the end I plumped for Rail Mechanical Engineer. Not quite true, but closer than my address was.   

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