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Saudi Arabia: did covid-19 help women get into the workforce ?

64% ! This is the increase in the activity rate of women in Saudi Arabia over the last two years, or more precisely, those who are working or actively looking for a job! And it is the researchers of the Brookings Institution who reveal us this score. A look back at a phenomenon of a magnitude that is still too little observed in the world…

From reform to reform, a phenomenon that was unthinkable a few years ago … 

In 2012, women are allowed to work, for the first time, in places other than offices out of sight! 

In 2017, as part of his “Vision 2030” plan, Prince Mohammed bin Salmane, designated heir to the crown, presented one of his main objectives: to increase the employment rate of women from 22 to 30% within a decade. 

In 2019, Saudi women can get a driver’s license.

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In recent years, the Kingdom has been determined to assert the place of women in a society still too much governed by men. From year to year, from reform to reform, women are more and more allowed to blossom in the oriental world and in professional life. 

And yet, if these policies are only good news, they still fail to explain this spectacular feminization of the Saudi workforce … 

One explanation: the COVID-19 pandemic 

In mid-May, new researchers tried to interpret this phenomenon. For them, one explanation: one of the consequences, certainly unexpected, of the Covid-19 pandemic… 

Indeed, since the beginning of 2020, many migrants have left the country, leaving their jobs vacant. So when the Saudi economy decided to restart a few months later, companies had to turn to Saudi women in order to replace all the Indians, Filipinos or Pakistanis already far from the borders … 

Towards a democratization of women’s work 

But that’s not all! While many women were looking for a job during the last two years, their unemployment rate has decreased from 32% to 24%.

Already in 2017, the changes in thinking were beginning. A study conducted by researchers gathered a group of men. The goal was to teach them that the majority of their fellow citizens were in favor of women working, before letting them decide whether or not to register their wives on a job search platform. The result was clear: 32% of them registered their wives, compared to 23% in a control group that was not informed about the majority opinion.

The promise of a bright professional future for all these women 

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Published on 18 June 2021