Are Saudi women unemployable? |
Arab News - 04 May, 2012
Author: Tala Al-Hejailan
The Ministry of Labor recently identified that there are 1.6 million unemployed Saudi women in the Kingdom. A recent article in Arab News, in which Fahd bin Sulaiman Al-Tikhaifi, assistant secretary of the Ministry of Labor for Development, explained that many of the unemployed Saudi women are very highly educated. Al-Tikhaifi further explained that the identification of these unemployed women was made known during a presentation at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where female job applicants included 78 Ph.D. and fellowship holders, 13,250 post-graduate holders and more than 380,000 who hold bachelor’s degree.
These numbers are, to say the least, astonishing. So why are all these women unemployed, or rather, unemployable?
The same article provided that that a Ministry official said: “16,000 women have applied for jobs in the construction sector, 78,000 in the security sector and 113,000 in the hospitality and services sector.” The same Ministry official described the employment of Saudi women in the private sector as very weak, saying that large companies often do not employ any women.
In the past, the Saudization rules provided that the employment of one woman would equal two men for the purposes of meeting the required Saudization percentage set by the Saudi government. With the introduction of the new “Nitaqat” system, women and men are equally quantified for the purposes of the Saudization percentage. This should not discourage employing Saudi women, since the above statistic show that, not only are there educated women available in the Saudi market, but these women are very highly qualified if given the chance to work.
It is without doubt a nuisance and an additional expense to have to comply with the requirement of opening a women’s section and obtaining the appropriate permit from the Ministry to employ women in offices and companies. Transport is another obstacle that many women face and many employers worry about when considering employing female employees. However, the Minister of Labor recently said that women working from home would be strongly supported by the Ministry.
In early 2012, an agreement was signed in Riyadh between Glowork.net, a Saudi led employment project to empower women, and EXA Information Systems under the supervision of the Council of Saudi Chambers enabling Saudi women to work for private sector companies from their homes.
The founder of Glowork said that the agreement would provide companies with highly sophisticated technical monitoring and performance system and provide training to both the companies and the relevant female employee.
There are many jobs which women can perform while working from home, including research, customer services, digital marketing, sales, accounting, regulatory work: Following up with government departments and ministries, following up on health insurance claims for services rendered by a health care provider, medical billing and coding, all of these jobs may be done from home. These are just few examples of jobs that the private sector can choose from when considering the employment of Saudi women from home.
The new and increasingly rigid regulations surrounding Saudization means that all foreign and local companies must consider employing Saudis, otherwise, they will be in violation and harsh penalties will apply. At present, only half of the adult Saudi population is being considered to fulfill the Saudization requirements, and the other half, being qualified unemployed women, are unfortunately being overlooked and taken for granted.
— Legal Consultant DLA Piper-Saudi Arabia