Saudi labor ministry opens up ‘all job opportunities for women’

Under pressure from the ILO, Saudi Arabia dropped a clause which protected women from ‘hazardous and dangerous jobs’

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Under pressure from the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Saudi Ministry of Labor has dropped a clause which protected women workers from hazardous and dangerous jobs, Makkah Arabic daily quoted a source as saying on Sunday.

The source said the ministry had adopted Article 149 of the ILO Labor Law by adding a clause which assured women equal job opportunities as men as long as the occupation is not dangerous or risky for them.

But the ILO was not pleased with the amendment claiming that it diluted the Article by limiting work opportunities for women.

“The minister disagreed with ILO’s comments. He did not find the Saudi Labor Law treating women unequally to men in any way. Rather it protects women’s femininity,” said the source.

But despite the disagreement the minister had to delete the clause, the ministry’s source told the newspaper.

“Saudi women are highly empowered in the Kingdom. They are free to occupy managerial positions and start their own businesses. Women can occupy leading positions in all sectors and fields,” said the source.

He also said that women are leaders in the public sector and in political affairs. “Women have the right to run for municipal elections and vote. They are also members of the Shoura Council and other important bodies in the Kingdom,” said the source.

The government has even announced plans to form a “woman friendly” city in the Eastern Province of Hofuf to bolster employment opportunities for women without transgressing religious boundaries.

The Labor Ministry has also pushed through a “feminization” program that has included replacing the men who work in sales at lingerie stores with women.

Of Saudi Arabia’s population of 28 million, 45 percent are women. About 57 percent of Saudi women have university degrees, according to a study by Oxford Strategic Consulting.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Nov. 23, 2015.

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