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Saudi women’s war to work
Women in KSA are again campaigning to ban men from working in lingerie stores. If successful, the move could create new job opportunities for the rising number of unemployed women in the Kingdom.
February 14, 2010 2:33 by Aarti Nagraj
The women’s undergarment market represents 17 percent of the SR9 billion ($2.3 billion) Saudi women’s apparel industry, according to Arabic daily Al-Madinah.
Hence, if the campaigners are successful in pushing the market to strictly implement the law in the Kingdom, it would lead to many job opportunities for Saudi women.
The rate of unemployment among women is very high; earlier this month, deputy Labor Minister Abdul Wahid al-Humaid told Arabic daily Al-Watan that the official unemployment rate for Saudi women stood at 27 percent. The rate indicates an increase of 2 percentage points from the 25 percent the government reported in February 2008.
The worsening situation came to the forefront in August last year, when 30 Saudi women announced that they had begun working as housemaids – a job typically assigned only to expatriate workers.
“We refuse to be classified as domestic workers or ‘chaghala’ (maids). We are only cleaning agents,” the women told Al-Madinah at the time. The women, who said that they don’t work in the presence of the master of the house, claimed they earned SAR1,500 Saudi (around $400) per month.
The issue led to a huge debate about whether Saudi women should be encouraged to take what many perceive as low-end jobs. Some blamed the government for placing too many restrictions about women working in the private sector. According to reports, only 6.21 per cent of Saudi women work in the private sector.
But the government has taken some measures since then.
Earlier this year, labor ministry officials said that a new department had been formed to monitor the employment of women in the Kingdom. The ministry said that it was trying to create more jobs to help women work from home, and that officials were also meeting representatives of private companies to encourage them to open women’s sections.
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