Women constitute 80.6% of registered job seekers in Saudi Arabia, according to a report by General Authority for Statistics.
And they seem to continue their search for jobs up to the age of retirement, given that 3,488 women aged 57 to 66 are still registered as job seekers, compared with 167 male who scout for employment in the same age group, the report found.
Although the Ministry of Labor and Social Development has been working on encouraging women’s employment through legislation, many are still unemployed, said Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, head of the economy and energy committee of the Shoura Council.
Women form just 16% of the country’s workforce, according to 2015 estimates.
“Women are prevented from occupying some positions, which adds to the lack of opportunities for them,” said Al-Rashed.
More specifically, women in the country currently face restrictions in terms of their employment options and companies wishing to employ Saudi female staff are often required to set up segregated facilities for them.
“Women are prevented from occupying some positions, which adds to the lack of opportunities for them.”
Women in the kingdom also face social obstacles in obtaining suitable jobs and they often aren’t able to find reliable transportation, seeing as they’re not allowed to drive. And work hours create difficulties for them to keep a balance between work and their expected family responsibilities.
This is a huge challenge, considering that boosting the female workforce is an essential part of the Vision 2030 reform plan.
Al-Rashed says that women’s contribution to the economy is “significant” and is “further growing” given the short period of time since women entered the labor market.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is seeking to increase the percentage of women in its workforce through a remote employment and work-from-home program.
The programme is expected to create 141,000 jobs opportunities and increase female representation in the workforce to 28% by 2020.
Around 4,500 women have already enrolled in the program through five centers in Jazan, Qassim, Hail, Madinah and Ahsa, according to a Ministry of Labour and Social Development official.
The program is created with the hope of meeting women’s needs for flexible employment options, the official said.
The initiative is part of the country’s National Transformation Plan 2030 and is intended to help diversify the economy.
As of the end of the third quarter of 2016, 496,800 females were registered with General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) as private-sector employees.
This marked a 144.62% increase from the 203,088 jobs that were occupied by women at the end of 2012.
Female employment grew 4.1% during the third quarter of 2016, compared to the same period in the previous year, according to GOSI data.
The government plans to increase the number of women in the workforce from 23% to 28%, and decrease the unemployment rate to 9% by 2020.