The rate of unemployment amongst Saudi women in 2013 has been pegged at 34 percent, up 2 percent from the previous year, according to recent statistics issued by the Central Department of Statistics and Information (CDSI).
The rise in unemployment is surprising given the government’s drive to encourage private companies to employ Saudi women as well as the high percentage of university graduates.
Early this year, Fahad Al-Tukhaifi, assistant undersecretary for development, said the ministry should exert more efforts to employ Saudi women, as the rate of unemployment is still high.
“I don’t think it is the lack of jobs but the introduction of women in new sectors is a real challenge,” said Khalid Al-Khudair, CEO of Glowork, an online platform for female employment based in Riyadh. “Saudi women are entering many new industries, such as the tourist industry, but gradually.”
“In the past two years, with the help of the Human Resource Development Fund (HADAF) and other training institutions, over 160,000 women have been hired in the private sector. This year, there are over 450,000 women working in the private sector,” he added.
Regarding the rate of unemployment, he said, “The only accurate way to measure employment is through Hafiz. That is the only way to find real committed job seekers.”
“However, another reason for the rise in unemployment amongst women is the high percentage of fresh graduates- mostly college graduates and vocational trainees, and probably those who haven’t reached the employment age and that’s why they don’t belong in the criteria,” said Al-Khudair.
Meanwhile, the CDSI statistics also showed that the rate of unemployment among men stands at 6.2 percent.
According to the Civil Affairs Ministry, there are 1.2 million Saudis working in the public sector with women accounting for 38.3 percent.
The study also noted that most Saudi women prefer to work in the education sector as teachers or administrators mainly due to social factors and because the education sector provides the most appropriate work environment for Saudi women. The education sector currently encompasses the highest percentage of Saudi women workforce, estimated at 87.4 percent.
At a recent conference discussing unemployment, Al-Tukhaifi noted, that Saudi women must be encouraged to enter different domains and industries.
“Many Saudi women are heading businesses in the private sector. However, the business sector has not succeeded yet in ensuring women take up jobs in the retail sector. We can only say we have succeeded if Saudi women replace expatriate workers.”
He also indicated that the feminization of shops selling women’s products would be complete by 2016.
Meanwhile, Osama Filali, an economist, said, “It is important to alert the private sector of the significance of addressing the unemployment situation by creating employment opportunities. There is a need to work the system to replace expatriates with Saudis, and to put an end to minimum wage in line with a certificate of employee expertise and the nature of work.”