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Saudi considers women-only industrial zones

July 29, 2008 6:05 by

women only, industrial, work, saudization, shoura councilWomen-only industrial zones are being considered in Saudi, as the country tries to figure a way of diversifying the economy and getting more women into the workplace. A leading member of the Shoura Council has urged the government to throw financial and logistic support behind the women-only idea.

“Many Saudi women are now involved in small-scale industries,” said Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil, a Shoura Council member and leading businessman, speaking to Arab News. “Women can play a big role in light industries, such as gold, jewelry and foodstuffs.”

He emphasized that women should be given production areas inside cities and not in far-off suburbs. “We recruit women usually for light industries. Why don’t we develop women-only industrial zones for this purpose?” he asked.

Al-Zamil said the Kingdom’s experience in women-only banks was highly successful. “It created new job opportunities for Saudi women and helped them make important contributions to the banking and financial sector.”

The Shoura Council is currently studying an industrial strategy presented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The industrial sector is not only a major employer but also an important revenue earner.

Al-Zamil estimated the Kingdom’s nonoil exports at SR122 billion ($32bn) every year, or around 20 per cent of the value of the total production in different sectors. He said about 16 percent of workers in the sector were Saudis. “Many other sectors cannot claim such Saudization rates.”

There are 300,000 new job opportunities in downstream industries.

“Saudi national industries were nurtured in a free and open market environment. They face stiff competition from foreign products within the Kingdom,” he said. Saudi industries export 30 percent of their output annually.

Al-Zamil urged Saudis to increasingly engage in small-scale and cottage industries. “All major industries in the Kingdom had small beginnings,” he said.

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