Factory run by female workers in Saudi Arabia breaks stereotypes

Woman work force

The Saudi government’s drive to draw more women into the labor force appears to be bearing fruit, as the jobs occupied by women seems to breaking the stereotypical ideology of suitable jobs for women in the kingdom.

A factory producing baby diapers and female hygiene pads operating in Riyadh is currently operating with a 75 percent capacity of a female labor force. The women are responsible for the offline production and manual packaging of these sanitary products. A third of the 65 women working have special needs and the assistance they require is provided such as an on-sight sign language translator.

Amina al-Shamary, the production line supervisor at the plant, told Al Arabiya that she had been working as an administrator at a hospital before deciding to utilize her experience in a different field. She has not looked back since.

The employment arrangement, she added, works well with Saudi women from conservative backgrounds, saying that a female-only environment suited the workers’ preferences as some of the women minded joining a co-ed working environment.

“The owners are planning to build another factory set to employ 170 women comprising of 1/3 of the plant’s workforce capacity,” al-Shamary said.

Employment data issued by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) in its 2013 Annual Report showed a big increase in the number of employed women.

The increase has been particularly marked in the private sector, partly in response to government incentives to private companies to employ Saudis. Saudi Arabia currently has the lowest female labor force participation rate in the Gulf.

The SAMA employment data shows that the number of Saudi women working in the private sector increased almost fourfold between 2010 and 2012, reaching 215,840.

During 2012 Saudi women outnumbered for the first time women of foreign nationalities in the private sector, although the private sector workforce as a whole is heavily skewed in favor of foreign workers, who account for 87 percent of the total of 8.5 million.

At end 2012 women accounted for 19 percent of all Saudi workers in the private sector and 36.5 percent of Saudi public-sector employees, compared with 7.7 percent and 33 percent respectively in 2010.

The government sector was dominated by Saudis, who made up 93 percent of the 1.1 million workers in this sector of the economy.

 
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