Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world to have a ban on women driving cars.
Then, after women in Saudi Arabia have officially started driving on the streets of their country following the lifting of the longstanding ban against women drivers which was lifted earlier in June.
A study conducted by Gulf talent showed that an overwhelming 82% of Saudi women plan to take up driving this year.
Hence, this is expected to contribute to more women growing into senior roles typically dominated by men; many women upgrading to higher paying jobs further away from their homes, and many currently unemployed women getting employment opportunities.
The Gulf Talent survey found that women’s driving significantly enhances women’s chances of career progression, by giving them the mobility required for managerial positions and removing logistical barriers that have traditionally inhibited their promotion to senior roles.
Notably, career advancement is a major factor in empowering women, which is one of the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.
By that token, Gulf Talent’s survey predicts driving will lead to a wave of employed women moving to better matching and more lucrative jobs in other companies. Many survey respondents admitted that they previously had to settle for jobs with lower pay than their qualifications merited or unrelated to their interests and studies because of transport constraints. Now however, many women surveyed affirmed they will be looking for better opportunities as soon as they are able to drive.
Noteworthy, the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 aims to raise women’s participation in the workforce from 22% to 30%. The new opportunities created by women driving are set to contribute to achieving this goal.
According to Gulf Talent’s study, a key segment benefiting from driving will be women in villages and small towns, many of them teachers, who need to commute to jobs in larger cities. With limited and costly long-distance public transport, many of these women have historically been unable to work at all.
By 2020, an estimated 3 million women are projected to be driving in Saudi Arabia, according to research by audit firm PwC. As a result, the Kingdom’s automotive sector is expected to see a significant boost in demand, leading to the creation of numerous new jobs in the sector, including a large number of female employees to cater for the new breed of female car owners. Transport services such as Careem and Uber have already announced plans to hire thousands of female drivers.
It is important to mention that Gulf Talent’s research was based on an on-line survey of 400 Saudi women based in Saudi Arabia, interviews with 25 Saudi women, and senior executives of 10 employers active in Saudi Arabia. Female survey participants were aged 20 to 60-year olds and included those already working as well as those seeking employment.
For her part, Alexandra Kinias, a feminist and founder of the page and website Women of Egypt, told Daily News Egypt after the decision was issued that lifting the ban on driving for women in Saudi Arabia will certainly improve the economy, explaining that there are hundreds of thousands of jobs open to women, but they cannot afford to hire drivers to take them to work.
She continued that more women will join the workforce, leaving more money in the hands of people, translating to raising the government’s productivity, which will impact positively the overall economic growth of the country.
“There are about 1.4 million private drivers working in the kingdom, with an average salary of $500 per month, plus accommodation and food,” she explained, and questioned, “that translates to a minimum of $700m per month because the clerics don’t want women to drive. What economy can sustain that?”
She reiterated, “just think of how much money is wasted every month by Saudi households just to pay for their drivers.”