Saudi Ministry of Labor targets 25% share for future female workforce
In the past two years, the Saudi Ministry of Labor and Social Development rolled out a number of initiatives to grow women’s workforce contribution under the Saudi National Vision 2030 program. It set ambitious targets to match, aiming to raise this contribution from the current 17%, to a share of 25% by 2020.
In a recent appearance on Pan Arab satellite channel Rotana Khalijia’s Ya Hala 2030 show, Abdulaziz Al Saed, the director of the ministry’s office leading on the rollout of Vision 2030 across its developmental plans, said that the ministry’s various initiatives – chief among which are Saudization efforts for women – are targeted toward women’s inclusion in high-level leadership roles. More precisely, one of the ministry’s initiatives plans to graduate 350 women in leadership roles, and 650, in managerial roles.
Among the Saudi Vision 2030’s 90 overall goals, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development will work toward 12 central goals; at the top of which is women’s empowerment in the job market. To this end, the ministry has made a number of legislative amendments aimed at a more seamless integration and inclusion of women in the country’s workforce, Al Saed confirmed.
Historically, challenges for women’s involvement in the Saudi job market were two-fold, Al Saed explained: limited mobility that proved difficult for day-to-day office commutes, and the shortage in caretaking support and staffers for working women; both of which the ministry tackled with the launch of the “Wosool” and “Qurrah” initiatives in support of Saudi women’s work-life balance.
Qurrah, the ministry’s program offering caretaking support for working women with children, has had a central mission of helping women manage work-life balance along with career and family aspirations. Moreover, the program was designed with a wider and dual objective to improve and raise the standards of childcare centers across the Kingdom; it has set rigid standards and qualifications for centers it enrolls.
Under Qurrah, the ministry’s Human Resources Development Fund covers a cap of 80% of childcare costs across enrolled centers– and a maximum of 800 Saudi Riyals per month per child, and of two children for each working woman.
The ministry’s Wosool program offers, primarily, transportation services for women from and to the workplace. It has partnered with a number of ride-hailing and taxi companies and apps. The partnerships piloted to great success in facilitating daily work commutes for Saudi women. As with Qurrah, the ministry’s same fund will be covering a maximum of 80%, and of 800 Saudi Riyals per month in transportation expenses for women commuters under the program.
Al Saed revealed that Qurrah has received 13,000 applications since its launch, and Wosool, over 19,000 applications, adding that a significant number of these applications has been accepted and processed under both programs.
The Ministry of Labor expects another of its programs, allowing women to work from home and remotely, to create 141 job opportunities by the year 2020 – and, effectively, raise female participation in the national workforce to a 28% share by that same year.
The program’s focal support goes to women, people with disabilities, and residents of areas challenged by lower employment opportunities.
These programs and others in their guise have been built and designed to tackle unemployment challenges for Saudi women, the ministry reiterates, as they remain the biggest contributors to the Kingdom’s overall unemployment challenges. Female job seekers face particular social challenges when it comes to their mobility and their work-family life balance.
In this regard, the rollout of the ministry’s remote employment program will enable working women to pursue their professional development and career from whichever setting works toward this balance. In tandem, the Kingdom’s investments into a digitized economy and government translate into more opportunities for women working remotely across sectors, from finance, to accounting, to human resources, to law, to data management, and to call centers.
The ministry’s leadership training and guidance program for women is another initiative it plans to scale under the Vision 2030. In the shorter term, Al Saed adds, many of the women wishing to join the country’s workforce for the first time will require short-form training programs to equip them for the job market. Others, on a longer term, need further assistance and support in more dynamic and specialized fields – particularly if they decide to cross over to new industries as the market opens up wider and broader for Saudi women professionals.
All these initiatives share one goal, Al Saed says: achieving the ministry’s and the country’s ambitious target for the female workforce within the set timeline, and helping women thrive in private, public, and non-profit sectors.