Unemployment among Saudi women in the private sector increased by 2.3 percent in 2012, according to new statistics release by the Ministry of Labor.
In 2011, there were around 302,000 unemployed Saudi women, while the figure grew to 358,000 in 2012, marking a notable increase, sources told a local daily.
“I believe that the rate of unemployment among Saudi women increased in 2012 due to certain obstacles faced by working women in Saudi Arabia,” says Amal Sheera, deputy chairperson of the Human Rights Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI).
“The first and most important obstacle is the issue of transportation. All Saudi working women require transportation facilities. With the current problem of drivers and the unavailability of public transportation, we are going to continue facing the same problem until this issue is resolved.”
Sheera said the other major difficulty Saudi women face is the lack of daycare centers and nurseries to take care of their children. “The salaries of most Saudi women in the private sector range from SR3,000 to SR6,000. However, most of the available nurseries charge up to SR8,000 a month.”
An official source at the Ministry of Labor said that the number of Saudis employed in the private sector exceeded 1 million for 2012, while the overall unemployment rate dropped by 0.3 percent during 2012. The source also confirmed that the number of workers in the private sector reached 8.5 million of which 1.1 million are Saudi nationals. Unemployment rates stood at 12.4 percent in 2011 and decreased to 12.1 percent in 2012. The unemployment rate for males stood at 6.1 percent in 2012, while starkly increasing to 35.7 percent among females.
“Companies that wish to hire Saudi women must make sure that special areas are set up for their female staff to work without having to mingle with their male colleagues,” says Sheera. “The private sector is not ready to spend thousands of riyals to renovate the place just to hire one or two Saudi women.”
She adds that working hours are another factor that resulted in the higher unemployment rate in 2012. “It is not suitable for a Saudi woman to work at a shop for instance until midnight.”
In a recent memo, a group of Saudi business owners said they did not prefer to hire women for sales positions.
They claimed this was due to job constraints, which require salespeople to work long hours and to have enough experience to deal with customers of different nationalities.