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Saudi Arabia

Crackdown on independent drivers worries working women

Working women in the Kingdom have requested that the Ministry of Labor exempt independent drivers from having to transfer their sponsorships after the Nov. 4 deadline, saying that losing their drivers would take a toll on them.
Saudi women acknowledge that the majority of independent drivers are violators of residency rules, but they say they need them to get around.
“Not all women can afford to buy a car and recruit a driver under their sponsorship,” says Maha Al-Jabri, an HR manager at a reputed company in Riyadh.
“The majority of Saudi families are unable to purchase their own vehicles. Until a solution is found to solve the crisis that we face for not being able to drive, the situation will just keep getting harder,” she said.
Ghada Al-Qarni, a boutique owner, said: “I believe that government will explore formal legal alternatives for independent drivers to avoid the unfortunate interruption for vital business, which may negatively affect an individual’s financial standing and hence the overall economy.
“Deporting drivers without finding alternative solutions would create other problems.”
The amnesty period was extended to Nov. 4 for undocumented workers in the Kingdom to legalize their work status. A ministry official confirmed that raids would deal with workers who have not resolved their status without exemption once the deadline is up.
Families with more than one female member cannot benefit from recruiting a driver under their sponsorship. There is still a need to hire independent drivers to make sure all their female members make it to school, university or work on time.
“The ministry needs to look at the problem from all sides in order to tackle it,” says Areej Halwani, a businesswoman. “Including independent drivers in the crackdown on illegal workers can have a major backlash on working women and eventually result in losses to the Kingdom’s economy.”
Halwani suggests that a government organization be opened to hold independent drivers under its sponsorship so that they can be hired at reasonable prices.
Most independent drivers are part-timers who work for other companies.
Rasha Al-Amoudi, a Saudi student studying at a college in Jeddah, said women are going to be the most affected by such decisions.
“My family has four female members who go to four different places to work and study. We need to hire at least two independent drivers to transport us to our institutions and workplaces on time. If we hire a driver to be under our sponsorship, who would he drop? We would still have to look for another independent driver,” she said.
Al-Amoudi argues that the ministry needs to ease the pressure on independent drivers to balance the fact that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

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