The number of Saudi women in the workforce has surged 130 percent over the past four years, recent official data showed.
The figures released by the kingdom’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development in March showed that the number of Saudi female employees in the private sector increased from 215,000 in 2012 to 496,000 in 2016, Gulf News reported on Tuesday.
The number of women working increased by 30 percent this year, up from 12 percent in 2011.
Social and cultural barriers pose major challenges to the career development of many Saudi women in their home country. The Arab world’s biggest economy is the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive and religious police patrol the streets to ensure public segregation between men and women who are not related, which makes it harder for them to go to work. Other regulations bar women from certain professions.
Last June, a prominent Saudi female activist who had previously been detained for breaching the country’s driving ban was arrested in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International rights group said in a statement that was carried by Reuters.
The oil-rich kingdom had last year announced a long term economic plan to help diversify its revenues away from a full reliance of oil, following the historic fall of the commodity’s prices in 2014. In the plan, set to be achieved by 2030, the government said it aims to increase the number of women in the workforce from 23 percent in 2016 to 28 percent in 2020. It also said it targets to quadruple the number of women in senior civil services roles.
According to Reuters, women are already allowed to work as doctors and have volunteered as medics in the holy city of Makkah during the haj pilgrimage season for the previous few years.
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