Rights of working women

The findings of a survey on working women were presented in a research paper at a recently-concluded forum discussing the rights and duties on Working Saudi women.

Daliya Gazzaz


The findings of a survey on working women were presented in a research paper at a recently-concluded forum discussing the rights and duties on Working Saudi women. About 60 percent of those who responded to the survey said the salaries of female government employees are sufficient to support their families. Around 47 percent of respondents said men deserve jobs more than women while 41 percent said career has a negative impact on a woman’s married life.

Some 36 percent of participants said a woman’s job leads to gender-mixing, which is against the teachings of Islam. It was revealed in the survey that 43 percent of respondents believe that jobs in education and charity sectors are the most suitable jobs for women. Interestingly, the study showed that an overwhelming majority of respondents believe that the most basic job for a woman is taking care of her family.

The findings of the study, published by Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper, shed light on the general perceptions of society on women’s work and rights. The forum, which coincided with International Women's Day on March 8, put forward some interesting recommendations: It is ideal if women do not stay at home and draw monthly salaries, men should help counter rising unemployment rates by not rushing to apply for jobs; education is the best sector for women to work in; and women should stay away from public life so they can avoid gender-mixing.

These recommendations are not very different from the demands raised in a petition titled “Demands of Women in the Kingdom,” which was presented to the Shoura Council a few weeks ago. The petition summarized a number of demands and these included encouraging women to work from home, teach other women of the same nationality and not force them to go out of the Kingdom under the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program.

According to Ministry of Labor statistics, there are more than one million jobless Saudis and the unemployment rate among women stands at 35 percent with the majority of unemployed women holding university degrees. Saudi women find it difficult to land jobs that suit their qualifications and their efforts to seek gainful employment are further hampered by strict customs and traditions followed by some families. All of this means Saudi women’s employment options are largely restricted to the education sector as most job seekers want to be employed in this sector. The gap between graduates in the educational stream and the demand of the job market remains high, and this is regarded as one of the reasons for rising unemployment among women.

Women’s unemployment is a social, economic and security issue so increasing involvement of women in the employment sector will serve the interests of the nation. When we deal with the issue of working women and their rights, we have to speak about a change in the prevailing culture in which women are being kept separated from public life.

We must demand the creation of an attractive working environment for women in various sectors in addition to education, health and the banking sectors. We have to talk about allowing maternity leave to protect a woman's right as a mother and a working woman. There should be daycare centers where the children of working women can be looked after at reasonable rates during their working hours in both the public and private sectors.

When we speak about the rights of working women, we have to raise a strong demand to enact stringent laws to criminalize sexual harassment at the workplace.

When we speak about supporting working women and their rights, we have to ensure means of transportation for them between their home and workplace. It is purely a woman’s choice to work or not and if she chooses to work, she should be provided with all the means and facilities to perform her duties and enjoy her rights at the workplace.