Dubai : The end of a decades-old female driving ban is expected to bring an economic windfall for millions of Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business.
Taghreed Ghazala, who owns a chain of beauty salons, sees the move as a huge step forward for businesswomen like her in the ultra-conservative kingdom. “I have many drivers that I pay to transport my employees around,” she told AFP ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday. “Now I don’t need them anymore. My business will save money, effort and time and I can invest them to grow my business faster.”
Saudi women are severely under-represented in the jobs market, with a staggering 31 per cent unemployment rate among the female workforce. They make up just under 23 per cent of the national workforce of six million, according to official figures — mainly because of their restricted mobility.
A recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce of the Red Sea city of Jeddah showed that transportation was considered one of the top barriers holding Saudi women back from joining the labour market.
Experts expect that the lifting of the driving ban will not only help raise female participation and employment rates but also create new jobs.
“I believe the decision will do more than just provide more job opportunities for women,” said Ihsan Bu-Hulaiga, head of the Riyadh-based Joatha Business Development Consultants.