In recent years, women in Saudi Arabia have seen a number of job opportunities open up to them in various sectors.
Saudi women can now work in several professions and fields previously limited to men. According to data released by Pew Research Center, Saudi Arabia has experienced the highest growth rate - among G20 countries - of women joining the workforce in the past 20 years.
The data revealed that women accounted for 23 percent of the kingdom's labor force in 2018 - a 7 percent increase since 1998. Saudi Arabia's growth rate is the highest among the G20 member states including Australia, Germany, Brazil, and others.
According to the Pew Research Center, G20 leaders had previously committed to a 25 percent "reduction in the gap between the shares of men and women participating in their countries' labor forces by 2025."
Though women's participation in the workforce has increased in multiple countries, the rates pale in comparison to men's participation.
Despite the goals stated above, three G20 countries - including the U.S. - saw a decline in the number of women joining the workforce.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, the 7 percent increase is long overdue. Earlier this year, a top official at the country's Ministry of Labor and Social Development said around 600,000 Saudi women have entered the country's job market.
With Vision 2030, more Saudi women are taking up jobs in new fields, such as flight attendants and taxi drivers. With more women being hired than ever before, Saudi Arabia's unemployment rate for females has dropped significantly in the past few years. 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.
In October 2018, the country created 80,000 jobs for Saudi women after it limited women's clothing stores' jobs to nationals only. During that same month, Saudi officials announced that the Gulf state's Air Navigation Services Company (SANS) was planning to employ women as air traffic controllers for the first time in the country's history. Their plans turned into reality earlier this year.
"Women in the Workplace" Initiative
In January, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced an initiative that aims at organizing work environments for women.
Some issues addressed under the stated initiative include:
- Ensuring women are free at work and not pressured into doing anything
- Guaranteeing equal pay for women
- Making sure female employees are comfortable in the workplace
- Working shifts when alone with male colleagues is no longer allowed
- In specific sectors, women can only work in premises that are female-only
- Providing efficient security systems for female employees