Saudi says ‘no’ to foreign women drivers

In this file photo, a Saudi Arabian woman drives a car in Riyadh. AP

In this file photo, a Saudi Arabian woman drives a car in Riyadh. AP  

Dashes hopes of several trained Kerala woman drivers

Saudi Arabia, which in an epochal decision recently allowed women in the country to drive, has clarified that it is not going to recruit foreign woman drivers.

This has dashed the hopes of several trained Kerala woman drivers who had suddenly spotted job opportunities as drivers of buses and school vans as well as driving instructors. Kerala, whose per capita car ownership rate is among the highest among Indian States, also has a large pool of trained woman drivers.

The Public Transportation Authority (PTA) in Saudi Arabia this week said no foreign female drivers would be hired, Saudi newspapers reported. PTA president Rumaih al-Rumiah said the government would give the opportunity to work as drivers in the public transportation sector only to Saudi women. “The PTA does not intend to hire foreign female drivers because the Saudisation rate in the transport sector is quite low,” one Arab newspaper quoted Mr. al-Rumiah as saying.

A Kozhikode woman, who is an instructor in a driving school, told The Hindu that she and her friends had planned to explore job opportunities in Saudi Arabia following the lift of the ban on women driving. “As soon as the Saudi king lifted the ban, we sensed that there would be a sudden demand for thousands of female driving instructors in that country,” the woman, who sought anonymity, said. “It is quite natural that lakhs of Saudi women would want to drive and secure driving licences and we imagined experienced driving coaches like us would get priority.” But this was not going to be.

Uber, the global taxi aggregator company, which recently announced it would provide 1.40 lakh full-time and part-time jobs, would not be able to recruit any foreign female drivers. (The Saudi government, which has invested around 3.5 billion dollars in the US-based Uber, is the biggest stakeholder in the company.) Expatriate woman drivers cannot aspire for these jobs. The government is also planning to reserve jobs of drivers of school buses as well as buses carrying female employees of companies for woman drivers.

King Salman’s decision to allow women to drive from June next is expected to impact the Saudi economy in a big way. For instance, Abdullah Ahmed Al-Moghlooth, a functionary of the Saudi Economic Association (SEA), estimated that the decision would help the kingdom some 20 billion Saudi riyal a year. As Saudi newspaper quoted him as saying that Saudi families were paying house drivers 33 billion riyals a year as salaries.

However, while the Saudi economy gains and Saudi women achieve a landmark human right, tens of thousands of Indian drivers would be packed off when women drivers hit the road in the conservative kingdom.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 12:19:25 PM |

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