Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Educated and Jobless Saudi Women: Ticking Bomb

By Ali Alyami

Even the people who proclaim Saudi Arabia’s stability and progress would admit that restless and frustrated Saudi youth, especially women, pose a real threat to the country’s stability and its shaky political structure. One of the major problems Saudis face is a lack of fulfilling and well-paying jobs, except for some government positions.. No segment in Saudi society suffers from this unnecessary and avoidable problem more than educated women. Millions of Saudi women are highly educated and have received advanced degrees, yet they are prevented from working, even if jobs are available. According to inconsistent Saudi statistics, between 6% and 14% of Saudi women are employed, even though the number of educated women exceeds that of men. Many women resent their dependence on men for economic survival among other things. They are forcefully demanding changes to labor and social laws that prevent them from working, becoming financially independent and contributing to the building of their lagging society

Given the fact that millions of Saudi women are educated, able and want to work, preventing them from working is mind-boggling, especially when there are about 10 million imported expatriates doing jobs that could be done by Saudi women. The reason given by the public and private sectors is that Saudis are selective and do not want to hold low paying jobs. This lame argument defies the fact that Saudi women are prevented from working in restaurants, cleaning homes, doing secretarial work or driving busses. Government officials consider these jobs as embodying decadent Western values or as s Prince Naif, the Saudi Interior Minister and a possible candidate to succeed King Abdullah, put it “He who permits his daughter or wife to work as a secretary for another man forfeit his manhood.”

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