RIYADH: Several Shoura members, diplomats and rights activists have hailed the landmark decision of the Saudi leadership allowing women to drive, which will cut reliance on foreign workers and boost job growth in the Kingdom.
“It will empower women and also change the employment landscape of the country,” said Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a member of the Shoura Council.
Expressing his happiness over this historic moment, Al-Khunaizi told Arab News that “the number of expatriate drivers in the country today exceeds one million.” “The Kingdom will save between SR9 billion and SR12 billion annually after phasing out foreign drivers,” said the Shoura member, while calling the day (June 24) “the biggest day in the history of the Kingdom.”
He said that “the female driving will help create more and diverse job opportunities for women, a move which is in line with the Saudi Vision 2030.”
“In fact, a large number of Saudi women, as far as I know, have decided to drop their kids to schools, go to supermarkets and visit government offices themselves, ensuring more cohesion, security and dignity for women,” added Al-Khunaizi.
“It is indeed a courageous step of the Saudi government and its institutions,” said the Shoura member, while referring to the support extended by Shoura Council to this decision.
Commending the decision, which is like history in the making before his own eyes, German Ambassador Dieter W. Haller said: “June 24 marks another important step on Saudi Arabia’s way to modernity. It helps the families and it will boost the Saudi economy… and we welcome it and commend the Saudi leadership for this wise decision.”
“I am very proud to witness this historic moment in the Kingdom,” said Luca Ferrari, Italian ambassador.
He said women driving is a major milestone in the implementation of “the economic and social transformation plan wisely envisaged by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
The Italian envoy, while referring to the reforms in the Kingdom, said: “Women empowerment is a crucial step toward a more inclusive society and a balanced economic growth.”
Referring to the move, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Quayid, a founding member of the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR), said women driving will boost mobility and ease pressure on family members.
“Earlier, husbands without drivers were obliged to drive their wives if they need to go to a doctor or for shopping,” said Al-Quayid, adding that the driving by women will boost productivity.
“Most employers, at least in the public sector, accept the cultural norm, implying that driving one’s wife is a legitimate reason not to be present at work,” he added. “This makes lifting the ban on women driving an essential step by the Saudi government in order to make the Saudi economy more efficient in the long run,” he said.
In fact, the employment landscape in Saudi Arabia will be transformed by the historic start to women’s driving, said a report released by the online recruitment firm GulfTalent.
Based on the findings of a survey, the report said that “the career advancement is a major factor in empowering women, which is one of the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.”
The survey predicts driving will lead to a wave of employed women moving to more lucrative jobs in other companies or institutions.
Many of the survey respondents admitted that they previously had to settle for jobs with lower wages because of the transport constraints. “The move now will have positive implications, especially helping the women working in health and banking sectors,” said Shahzad M. Siddiqui, a senior banker, while referring to a large number of Saudi women joining banking and health sectors.
By 2020, an estimated 3 million women are forecast to be driving in the Kingdom, according to a report compiled by audit firm PwC.
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