Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince promises one-third of government jobs for women

Arab News
Crown Prince Sultan yesterday announced plans to allocate one third of government jobs to Saudi women and to create additional job opportunities for them.
“The government depends on women for one third of its jobs,” the prince said. Prince Sultan underscored the government’s efforts to provide advanced education to Saudi women. “Saudi leaders have given women the right to education and employment within the Kingdom’s basic principles,” he explained.
The government has established hundreds of schools and colleges for girls in different parts of the Kingdom. Last year a women’s university was established in Riyadh. Women graduates currently outnumber their male counterparts, constituting 56.5 percent of the total.

Women’s employment has previously been limited primarily to education and health. A Cabinet decision issued some three years ago expanded job opportunities for women.

The Kingdom’s 8th Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2009) aims at increasing the percentage of women in the Saudi work force from 5.4 percent to 14.2 percent.

According to the latest study by the General Statistics Department, there are nearly 470,000 unemployed Saudi men and women, accounting for 12 percent of the total Saudi work force. “The number of unemployed men is 292,905 or 9.1 percent of the total number of Saudi working men while the number of jobless women is 176,113 or 26.3 percent of the total number of working women,” said the study conducted last year.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) says that the lack of optimum employment of human resources, including women, has led to an increased reliance on foreign manpower. The number of non-Saudi workers in the Kingdom is estimated at 8,024,885 including 6,780,550 men and 1,244,335 women. Of the 3,900,589 in the Saudi work force, 3,230,201 are men and 670,388 were women, the study said.

Prince Sultan also spoke about the Kingdom’s requirement of skilled and experienced foreign labor to carry out various development projects and run new companies and industries. However, he pointed out that the employment of foreign labor would not be at the expense of Saudis. There are over eight million expatriates in the Kingdom and the majority of them work in the private sector.

He said the Kingdom’s universities and institutes of higher learning would focus on science and technology in the coming years in order to meet job market requirements. Efforts are under way to establish a university of science and technology (named after King Abdullah) north of Jeddah.

The crown prince reiterated the government’s plan to establish new welfare projects in various parts of the Kingdom. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah recently visited the northern regions and launched a large number of educational, health and infrastructure projects at a cost of billions of riyals.

The crown prince also disclosed plans to purchase more dates from farmers and distribute them among Arab, Islamic and other friendly countries as gifts. He commended the Saudi security forces for their success in the campaign against terrorists. He also called upon Saudis and expatriates to use water prudently, without wasting the valuable resource. “Excessive use of water for agriculture will endanger the Kingdom’s water security,” he added.