Saudi Arabia is a monarchy in southwestern Asia, inhabits most of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is a land of vast deserts and little rainfall. Huge deposits of oil and natural gas lie beneath the country's surface. Saudi Arabia was a comparatively poor nation before the discovery and exploitation of oil, but since the 1950s income from oil has made the country wealthy. The religion of Islam developed in the 7th century in what is now Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, and it has been ruled by his offspring ever since. Saudi Arabia had an estimated population of 25.1 million and a population density of 11.7 persons per sq km. About 23 percent of the population (amounting to about 5.4 million people) is made up of foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia. The country's population growth rate is one of the fastest in the world, at 3.27 percent (2004). Carl Haub observes:
"Saudi Arabia has an extremely young population. Of the country's 24 million people, 43 percent are under the age of 15"(Haub)
The swift rate of population growth and the large percentage of foreign workers and their dependents have momentous political, social, and economic implications on Saudi Arabia. Foreign workers play a significant role in the country, making up a large portion of the labor force and the consumer base. However, due mainly to a series of economic downturns, the government has pursued a policy of preferring Saudis to reduce its reliance on expatriates in the workforce.