Women take to driving for the first time in Saudi Arabia

Women take to driving for the first time in Saudi Arabia

Women eye bigger role in economy

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labour market

July 2018

The lifting of the driving ban in Saudi Arabia marks a turning point in the Kingdom’s economy as well.

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director for Dammam Airport Company and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 per cent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labour market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labour market.

Currently women make up roughly 22 per cent of the national workforce; Vision 2030 is determined to raise that number to 30 per cent.

7,500 Saudi women work in industries

Food industries employ the largest number of Saudi women working in the industrial sector.

The number of Saudi women working at the Kingdom’s industrial cities reached 7,500 by the end of 2017 after the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones created a suitable atmosphere for women to work.

The latest report issued by the authority showed that these Saudi women worked at 154 industries in various parts of the country with 3,022 of them working in the central regions of Riyadh (2,986), Qassim (33) and Hail (3). They work in 53 industries.

A total of 1,121 Saudi women work in 43 industries in the Eastern Province while 3,358 women work in the western sector with industries in Jeddah employing 3,234 Saudi women, Madinah 102, and Abha 22. They work in 58 industries located in the three cities.

Food industries attracted the largest number of women (4,126), representing 55 percent of the total, followed by pharmaceutical industries (692 or 9 percent) and chemical industries (531 or 7 percent), the report said.

As many as 471 women work in the electricity sector, 453 in the minerals sector, 463 in textiles, 362 in plastic industries, 233 in glass industry, and 170 or 2 percent in paper industry.

The authority emphasized its plan to establish women-only industries to create more job opportunities for Saudi women. It is also thinking of supporting nurseries to take care the workers’ children. The move comes in line with the objectives of Vision 2030.

The authority has established special working zones for women following international standards as part of its efforts to accommodate more women workers in the sector. Women are provided with infrastructure facilities and services they require in these work places.

The number of Saudi female workers in industries grew from 5,480 in 2014 to 7,500 in 2017. The sector has also attracted a good number of businesswomen and investors.

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