A number of Saudi working women and female students said they are worried the inevitable inspection campaigns following the end of the grace period for illegal workers to correct their status could leave them without their private drivers. They said many drivers are violators of residency rules but they need them to get around, according to al-Jazirah Arabic daily.
An official in the Ministry of Labor confirmed that the inspection campaign will deal with all workers who have not corrected their status without exception once the grace period ends at the beginning of the new Hijri year (Nov. 4).
However, some of the women who could be affected as a result said they cannot afford to purchase a car and recruit a driver.
Others said recruiting a private driver is not enough as their family has more than one female member who needs transport regularly.
They added that even if there is a driver under the sponsorship of the family, their families seek the help of several other private drivers to ensure all their female members make it to school, university or work on time.
They demanded that the drivers of private cars be exempt from the inspection campaign and that offices be opened for drivers offering reasonable rates, especially as rent-a-car offices charge at least SR50 a trip.
Economic expert Abdullah al-Khaldi suggested exempting private drivers from the inspection and rectification campaign that the Kingdom is witnessing for expatriate workers.
He said the situation could cause an economic burden, especially since many Saudi families do not possess the money to purchase a car and bring a driver under their sponsorship.
He demanded that a government agency be opened that will have private drivers under its sponsorship so that the citizen can rent a driver at reasonable prices instead of resorting to illegal workers.
He said the agency should not charge its drivers high fees as the taxi companies do. The charges should be reasonable, not exceeding SR1,000 a month for customers, said al-Khaldi.
There is already a high rate of absenteeism among female students, teachers and employees in general, said al-Khaldi. He believed that if private drivers were not exempted from the inspection campaign, absenteeism would increase further.
He pointed to other Gulf countries that allow women to drive.
Amal Muhammad, 33, a teacher, said cracking down on private drivers without finding alternative solutions would lead to difficulties.
She said: “We rely on them when going to and returning from school.
“We cannot afford to purchase a car and recruit a driver.”
Khulood Ahmad, 28, another teacher, said: “We cannot afford to buy a car and the private drivers use their car to transport us.
“The majority of Saudi families cannot purchase their own cars. There is a dire need to find a solution to this crisis that we are going to face as working women in the Kingdom.”
The Ministry of Labor has stipulated three-year contracts for Saudi women working in lingerie shops.
“The contract for women employed in shops selling lingerie and women’s accessories should be for three years and during the first year, the employer should provide necessary training to the workers,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said the employer should also register the workers in the social insurance system.