Three million Saudi women ‘on the roads by 2020’

The lifting of the ban on women driving marks a milestone for women in the Kingdom who have had to rely on drivers, male relatives, taxis and ride-hailing services to get to work, go shopping and simply move around. (AP)
Updated 07 July 2018
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Three million Saudi women ‘on the roads by 2020’

  • Kingdom likely to save between SR9bn and SR12bn annually after phasing out foreign drivers
  • 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.

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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Arab and Muslim nations, organizations commend Saudi Arabia’s decrees on Khashoggi case

Updated 13 min 29 sec ago
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Arab and Muslim nations, organizations commend Saudi Arabia’s decrees on Khashoggi case

  • UAE, Egypt and Bahrain issued statements commending Saudi Arabia's royal decrees
  • Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, said the king’s decisions “achieve justice and equality”

JEDDAH: Gulf Arab allies have backed the royal decrees issued Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Saturday involving the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

UAE

The UAE on Saturday backed Saudi Arabia’s statements, the official news agency WAM said.

The Gulf Arab state “commends directives and decisions of Saudi King Salman on the issue of Kashoggi,” WAM said on Twitter.

The announcement also said that Saudi Arabia and its leadership is a state of institutions based on justice and equity.

Egypt

Egypt praised what it called the "decisive" and "brave" actions taken by the king.
"Egypt sees that the brave and decisive decisions and actions taken by the Saudi King over this matter align with his majesty's approach that respects the principles of law and applications of effective justice," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It also offered its condolences to Khashoggi's family and said it was confident the investigation would reveal the truth. 

Bahrain

Bahrain praised decisions made by the Saudi king to establish justice, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported.

“Saudi Arabia will remain a state of justice, values and principles,” an official statement quote by the channel said.

Palestine

Palestine commended King Salman's decisions to affirm justice and fairness.

Yemen

Yemen on Saturday praised decisions made by King Salman in relation to Khashoggi's death , according to the legitimate government’s state news agency.

Djibouti

Djibouti praised King Salman's decisions and said they are proof that Saudi Arabia is a nation of values, principles, and justice.

Arab and Muslim Organizations

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Saturday praised the Kingdom's transparency and its emphasis on the implementation of justice.

Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, on Saturday said the king’s decisions on the death of Khashoggi “achieve justice and equality in accordance with Islamic law”, according to a statement on state news agency SPA.