Aisha Bint Abdullah

Aisha Bint Abdullah

Journalist

Saudi transport promises 12000 jobs for future female drivers

It has been nearly a year since Saudi leadership announced a momentous decree allowing Saudi women to obtain driver's licenses. And since the announcement, it has made concerted efforts to tie this decree into women's wider economic empowerment. One focal aspect such effort has been on sectors powered by Saudi's future base of female drivers. And its most direct beneficiary is, naturally, Saudi's transport and traffic sector.

Saudi Arabia’s ministers of transport and labor have announced top-level plans to extend Saudi women’s empowerment to the transport sector. Between school and university transport services – where women’s inclusion in the transport industry will be focused – nearly 12,000 new jobs will be created for Saudi women.

In several press statements, Saudi minister of transport Nabil Al-Amoudi stressed on the General Transport Authority’s focused efforts in this direction, first on attracting Saudi women to the transport services sub-sector, as it had previously with male nationals – paving the way for wider and more substantial roles and jobs in Saudi transport.

Under the National Vision 2030 and the initiatives under its umbrella, Saudi women’s entry to the transport services industry, Al-Amoudi added, will elevate service quality, as well as employment  opportunities in the sector.

Ali Al-Ghufais, the Saudi minister of labor and social development, said that the ministry is tackling job market creation and restructuring through a number of initiatives and programs; all of which are aimed at empowering women and elevating their economic contribution in high-performance, stable and conducive environments.

In a joint effort, both ministries of labor and of transport have signed a memorandum of understanding to nationalize transport services and vehicles for Saudi academic institutions. As a result of this MoU, 12,000 jobs will be created for women from transport services for schools, universities and female teachers alone.

Trickle-down growth

The Saudi leadership’s decision to effectively lift an enduring ban on women driving, which comes into effect on June 23, 2018, has already begun to bear fruit.

Their mobility is opening up massive job opportunities for Saudi women across the board, starting– and almost symbolically so – with car maintenance, repair, and rental services, as well as driver training services.

The decision also allows women to work and drive as tour guides in the Kingdom, as well as in traffic management, home delivery, and emergency aid transport and adjacent services.

Ripple effect

A few days ago, Saudi insurance company, Najm, launched a training program for Saudi women for their qualification as “accidents investigator”.

Under and as a result of this program, the company will open doors for future female investigators, on-boarding them from training and early development, all the way to employment stages in the management and resolution of road traffic accidents. Saudi women’s empowerment is crucial to their societal role, the company affirmed; its own decision to train and hire female inspectors aligns with royal orders to implement a traffic system and infrastructure that would enable women to drive within set legal and systematic parameters.

Another car rental app in Saudi Arabia also announced plans to scale female participation to its training program as soon as the driving ban is lifted. And the urgency is not without reason; according to CNN, women represent 80% of car rental company customers in Saudi Arabia. They present an even larger opportunity for these companies as future drivers.

Regional ride-hailing company Careem reveals that it has received thousands of applications by Saudi women to join its captain base, while rival Uber announced its plans to open XXXXX for female drivers in the future.

Maintaining mobility

Under the royal decree lifting the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia is, also, open access to their employment in the car maintenance and repair services industry. In March 2018, 117 female interns concluded a 16-hour vehicle maintenance, officially certified training workshop, under the communal training group, “Atqen” (which translates into “Excel”).

During the workshop, trainees were taken through lessons and sessions covering everything from basic traffic knowledge, to emergency and routine repairs, to vehicle diagnosis and testing.

On the legislative framework enabling women to work in traffic and transport sectors and  sub-sectors, the royal decree, issued on December 26, 2017, stipulates the “enforcement of traffic rules and regulations on men and women alike”, and indiscriminately so for both genders.

Upon the decree coming into effect, women will also be allowed to operate trucks, and drive across cities. They will also be eligible and entitled to motorcycle and public vehicle driving licenses, granted they meet the general requirements of these licenses.

Underpinning women’s mobility is also a spate of decisions empowering their commercial and business participation. Last February, the Saudi ministry of Commerce began the implementation of a royal decree that would offer women access to governmental and commercial trade services without the consent of their guardian.

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