Author: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR | ARAB NEWS
Thursday 13 October 2011
In 2005 the Ministry of Labor ordered lingerie shops to start replacing foreign male sales clerks with women. It has been more than five years now and only the Nayomi lingerie chain and Centrepoint have successfully hired women clerks in their shops all over the Kingdom.
“If by January these shops are still employing salesmen, they will be barred from all the ministry's services including, among others, issuance of work visas to recruit manpower from abroad,” said ministry spokesman Hattab bin Saleh Al-Anzi.
Al-Anzi said in July 2011 the ministry gave shops that sell make-up, women’s clothing, abayas and accessories one year to ensure all their staff are women. “This grace period will end in July 2012, after which these shops will face sanctions from the ministry,” he said.
Reem Asaad, a member of the Saudi Economic Society who has been calling for boycotting lingerie shops not employing women, said that there should not be any slackness in the implementation of the ministry's directives. She added that many women’s shops in Jeddah had complied, but outlets in other cities had not.
Asaad doubted that shopping centers and malls took the ministry's orders seriously and recalled that a mall recently asked her to help find 450 jobs for men. “How can we be serious in employing women if such shops are still looking to employ men?” she asked.
The ministry said women’s shops include those selling women’s clothing, whether it was on the street or within shopping centers. It asked the shops to provide rest rooms for employees and asked women staff to be decently covered.
Fatima Qaroob, founder of the “Enough Embarrassment” campaign that calls for saleswomen to be employed in lingerie shops, said the 2005 order was issued by the Labor Ministry, while the one issued in 2011 had royal approval.
“Four years after the ministerial decree, I met with lingerie shop owners and asked them the reason why they were not complying and they claimed the ministry did not send an official request demanding them to employ women,” she said. “I believe businessmen are just lazy and they claim that it is difficult to train women.”
Shop owners only need two months to train women and guide them through the job, according to Qaroob. “Our campaign is offering to train women and supervise them until they are qualified to stand on their own two feet,” she said. “Many companies have their own training centers which can be used to train women employees as well as men. Companies who do not have training centers can come to us and we will provide their female employees the training and education needed to hold whatever position they want,” she added.
Many companies have contacted the campaign asking for their help to train their female employees or even help them with recruiting women in different positions, including cashiers, managers, customer service staff and human resources officials.