Experts seek level-playing field for women
With only 2 percent of Saudi women employed in the industrial sector, business forums are encouraging women to work in industries that require specific skills.
According to officials, women can effectively contribute to the industrial sector, such as in 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.
Fahd ibn Suleiman Al-Tejekhifi, assistant undersecretary 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 after 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, 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 said.
Al-Tejekhifi said 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 at the Yanbu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said women can manage industries that are commensurate with their capabilities and traditions of 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.
“The Yanbu chamber 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 among women entrepreneurs in the Kingdom and abroad.”
Areej Abdullatif Jastaniah, a businesswoman, welcomed the involvement of women in the industrial field.
Jastaniah, who is considered one of the first women to be nominated for the board elections at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 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.