Saudi women urged to hike private sector participation

With only 2 percent of Saudi women employed in the industrial sector in Saudi Arabia, industrial forums are encouraging women to work in industries which require specific skills.

According to officials, studies have demonstrated that women can effectively contribute to the industrial sector, such as the design and garment industry, the jewelry manufacturing and design industry, the assembly of electronic devices, as well as in the manufacturing of chocolates, baked goods, perfumes, and cosmetics.

Dr. Fahd bin Suleiman Al-Tejekhifi, assistant undersecretary for development at the Ministry of Labor, said the royal decree calling for the feminization and the Saudization of the industrial jobs appropriate for women has allowed the ministry to initiate strategies and initiatives to increase the participation of women in the private sector in the short term by increasing incentives and through gradual substitution. Long term strategies to increase female participation in the private sector involves the development and implementation of a field study aimed to involve relevant parties, in addition to the implementation of the electronic link of the ministry to reduce the problems that occur following employment, he said.

Al-Tejekhifi explained that there is a ban on the employment of women in some businesses that do not suit their nature, but women are entitled to own or manage these businesses, noting that the employment of women does not require obtaining a permit from the Ministry of Labor or any other party. Women are also prohibited from working in factories before six o’clock in the morning or after five o’clock in the evening.

Women would be permitted to work in production lines in factories that do not fall within the prohibited activities, and in the factories’ offices, said Al-Tejekhifi. Further controls are in place to prevent discrimination in wages between male and female workers, as well as to monitor part-time jobs, contractual relationships, rehabilitation and training for women, financial support, and the penal system.

Production lines must employ all women and no less than 10 women should be employed per shift. Women should account for at least one-third of the total number of workers in the total production facility, and the employer must provide safe and decent clothing for women, he added.

Al-Tejekhifi concluded his statement saying that the continuing support regarding the recruitment, training and rehabilitation of women, in coordination and cooperation with government agencies and the private sector will lead to the entry of more women in the industrial sector.

Nawal Hady, chairperson of the Board of Businesswomen in the Yanbu Chamber of Commerce, said that women can manage industries that are commensurate with their capabilities and traditions of Saudi society.

Additionally, regulations are necessary to govern the work of women in industries, such as the cosmetics industry, the small and medium-sized plastic household items industries, the packaging industry, and many others, which have high chances of success and low market risks, she said.

Hady pointed out that women are partners in many industries and major projects, but within a distinct group of family businesses, such as Al-Hamrani Fox, Al-Olayan, Zainal companies, and others, noting that the Gulf women generally account for 40 percent of the capital of the existing companies in the region, and Saudi women have the biggest share of that figure.

She said: “The Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Yanbu is working to revitalize industrial projects and attract strong and permanent investment.” She said the chamber is very keen on encouraging innovation and new ideas that encourage positive partnership initiatives, not only among businessmen but also female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom and abroad.

Areej Abdul Latif Jastaniah, president of the Foundation for Perfumes and a member of the Artisans Committee in the Chamber of Commerce in Makkah, welcomed the involvement of women in the industrial field. Areej, who is considered one of the first women to be nominated for the board member elections in the Makkah Chamber of Commerce, said that women have proven to have a positive role in the industrial sector, and since the entry of women in these factories, production has increased to the extent that some factories have started to export products to other Gulf countries.

She encouraged women, whether they are working or investing, to take part in the sector and ensure that their rights are protected.

Regarding her own experience, Areej said she started manufacturing perfume at home, and then rented a small lab to expand her work and attract more labor. She is now trying to expand her operations to include more Saudi women and to eventually expand locally and internationally.

Speaking about the obstacles she encountered in her business, she said the marketing process is one of the biggest obstacles she and many businesswomen face.

Abdel Moneim Al-Aadas, director of the Department of Financial Advice at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, confirmed that the entry of women in the industrial sector calls for financial support, indicating that the proportion of women investors in the industrial sector of the Kingdom does not exceed 1 percent, and women’s general participation in investments in Saudi Arabia does not exceed 5 percent, according to studies.





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