The royal decree allowing Saudi women to drive is likely to have far-reaching consequences in the employment market and wider economy, according to reports.
The move has been broadly welcomed by both campaigners and political leaders, and analysis by Bloomberg predicted the economy could grow by up to $90bn by 2030 as a result, with a boom in car sales followed by greater employment opportunities as women have the opportunity and flexibility to work where and when they want to.
The main obstacle for women getting to work has been transportation, said Khalid AlKhudair, founder and CEO of Glowork. “With this decree, not only will it remove this obstacle, but actually pave new roads for women to work in new sectors and industries,” he told People Management, adding that it would “help diversify our economy extensively”.
Princess Nourah University in Saudi Arabia has already said it will set up a female driving school, while ride hailing app Careem is hoping to capitalise on the decision by recruiting female drivers when the ban is lifted in June next year, it has been reported.
“While the gains of this decision may take some time to be realised, greater female engagement in the labour market is likely to provide a substantial lift to the total supply of labour, causing GDP to grow faster over the next decade,” said Bloomberg, as reported in Arabian Business.
The country has been working to increase the level of female participation in the labour market as part of its Vision 2030 blueprint for the future. Approximately 22 per cent of Saudi’s workforce is currently female, but the aim is to increase this to 30 per cent over the next 12 years.
“Lifting the ban is a crucial step forward, which will go a long way towards removing mobility barriers that limit women’s participation in the economic lives of their communities and hamper their opportunities for employment and development,” said a spokesperson for the International Labour Organization (ILO) regional office for Arab states.
However, the ILO told People Management the new measure would be most effective “if it is coupled with further legal reforms, policy shifts, and other complementary measures to support and encourage women to work in paid employment”.
“Many females do not have access to current means of transport such as family drivers or taxis and are therefore not able to commit to full-time jobs. Allowing women to drive will open the door for many to increase their employment opportunities and help them grow in their careers,” Naziha Deriche, biomedical engineer at Al Bayan Medical Company KSCC, and founder of Alajnabia – a new online job board for women in Saudi Arabia – told People Management. “Access to driving will enable women to effectively start their job search by visiting companies and interacting with recruiters and employers,” she added.
Global thought leader and professor of business and management at Westminster Business School, Vlatka Hlupic, said she believed the decree would “create a big ripple effect, not easy to fully grasp at this moment”.
“It will create social changes and economic benefits. Women will be able to commute to work and stores more easily, which will increase their employment prospects, efficiency in lifestyle and have an overall impact on economy,” she said.
Earlier this year, the first Saudi female engineers were employed in Saudi Arabia at General Electric, in what was hailed as a landmark move, while last month the Ministry of Labor and Social Development said that opportunities for women to be employed in previously prohibited roles could create up to 80,000 new jobs.
In May, a royal decree was issued which waved away the government’s requirement for women to have permission from their guardian to be able to work or study.
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