DUBAI: The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has welcomed King Salman’s announcement allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia, calling it a positive step.
In a tweet Guterres wrote: “I welcome Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift the ban on women drivers. An important step in the right direction.”
The ruling will see a consultation over the next 30 days on how to implement the new rules granting women the right to apply for driving licenses and it will be brought into force in June 2018.
I welcome Saudi Arabia's decision to lift the ban on women drivers. An important step in the right direction.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) September 27, 2017
By allowing women to drive frees them to go to work without incurring excessive additional costs caused by the need to hire drivers, and thus bring home additional income into the household, which will ultimately increase people’s spending power and help boost Saudi Arabia’s national economy.
Saudi writer and journalist, Ghada Ghunaim said: “This will have a huge impact on Saudi Arabia’s economy. We have to remember that our Kingdom produces more female graduates compared to our male counterparts,”
Most Saudi families are reliant, to varying degrees, on private drivers to transport the female members to school, work and any other place they need to go to.
The most recent statistics suggest there are nearly 800,000 men – mostly South Asian – working as drivers for Saudi women.
Drivers are paid approximately 1,000 – 1,500 riyals ($267 — $400) per month. But there are additional costs incurred, such as residence permits, accommodation, health care and food, and flight tickets, which cost Saudi families a national total of approximately 19.14 billion riyals ($5.1 billion).
Ghunaim said Tuesday’s royal decree would ultimately help low income families who currently struggle to meet the financial burden of hiring drivers.
“A lot of families in Saudi Arabia are not able to afford paying a driver a monthly salary, this royal decree will help ease a lot of families who struggle with their women not being able to drive,” she added.