The number of Saudi women employed in the private sector almost doubled in one year to reach 400,000 last year, an official report has indicated.
The meteoric rise from 48,406 women in 2009 to 100,000 in 2011 and 200,000 in 2012 is a clear indication of the success of the ambitious drive by the authorities to find employment opportunities for women in the conservative society that has strongly resisted allowing women to take up jobs in the private sector.
According to the report prepared by the labour ministry, the opening up of opportunities for women to work in the industrial and commercial sectors, as well in shops, has contributed massively to the high employment figures, local daily Al Eqtisadiya reported on Monday.
The report also referred to the new financial perks for teachers in the private sector, with the imposition of a minimum salary of 5,000 riyals and a transportation allowance of 600 riyals.
“Such measures have encouraged several women to become teachers in private schools,” the report said.
The authorities launched the ambitious employment programme to deal with the growing number of unemployed Saudi women and reduce reliance on foreign workers.
Around nine million foreigners are employed in Saudi Arabia, mostly unskilled workers in the construction and service sectors. They make up one-third of the total population.
The labour ministry has been pushing to reduce their numbers by motivating Saudis to take up jobs in the private sector, often considered much less attractive than the public sector.
The employment of women in lingerie shops was initially resisted by conservative forces who said that it would encourage interaction between men and women.
However, the ministry rejected the arguments and went ahead with its employment programme, a decision that allowed the number of employed women in the private sector to jump ten-fold in four years.