Last year, the Saudi General Directorate of Passports announced that women will start working at airports and land border-crossing points across the kingdom. Just a week after the opening of 140 positions in the field, 107,000 Saudi women applied.
Now, it's estimated that by 2020, 70 percent of passport controllers in the kingdom will be women. The number was recently revealed by Brig. Gen. Dr. Saleh bin Saad Al-Merbaa, director of general administration for training in the passport department.
The top military training official told Arab News that the Saudi General Directorate of Passports has started training 760 new female recruits for the soldier-ranked roles. They will soon be assigned to the kingdom's land, sea, and air entry/exit points.
The women who are now prepping themselves for the roles are considered to be the second group to pass through the directorate's training center - which covers Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, and Dammam.
"We are proud to have the largest number of female employees in all ports, land, sea and air, who are qualified and skilled to represent the whole country, not only the passport department. They are the first to welcome visitors to Saudi Arabia and the last to say goodbye," Al-Merbaa said.
“We can’t deny that females have proven themselves in this major compared to their male colleagues. The international airports in Saudi Arabia are going through a major transformation this year and maybe by next year you might even see 70 percent female staff," he added.
Al-Merbaa explained that the training system is divided into two parts. The first part, which lasts two weeks, is purely theoretical. In the second half, women undergo a three-day course in automated passport systems.
Though military training is currently optional for females, Al-Merbaa said it will become a requirement in the future.
Saudi women have been joining the country's workforce in large numbers
Data released by Pew Research Center, revealed that Saudi Arabia experienced the highest growth rate - among G20 countries - of women joining the workforce in the past 20 years.
According to Nawal Abdullah Al-Thabian, a top official of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, around 600,000 Saudi women have recently entered the country's job market. The official added that the ministry recently initiated 68 schemes to facilitate employment opportunities for Saudi women.
With more women hired than ever before, Saudi Arabia's unemployment rate for females has significantly dropped. During the third quarter of 2018, the rates dropped to 30.9 percent among Saudi women — from 31.1 percent in the second quarter of 2018.