Nearly two thirds of female employees working in women’s shops in Riyadh are considering leaving their jobs due to the inconvenient working hours, according to the results of a survey published by Arab News.
The results were announced as part of research carried out by the Survey Center, with the findings also reporting that 30 percent of women experience some form of harassment at the workplace.
The research found 79 percent believe they are not being paid enough to compensate for the long hours they have to work, with 95 percent earning SAR5,000 ($1,333) or less and 41.3 percent earned SAR3,000 ($799). The report does not specify, but it is assumed the amounts are per month.
Late last year, Saudi female workers also hit out at working conditions in some retail stores, saying the government’s decision to “feminise” workplaces had failed to come with updates to facilities such as bathrooms and prayer rooms.
Many Saudi women have objected to working in shops selling abayas and women’s clothing.
Most of the shops are located in old markets where there is no privacy and they have pointed out that unlike in big malls there were no female bathrooms or prayer rooms and no designated places for resting, the Saudi Gazette said.
They had also opposed the shift hours – the first from 10am to 1pm and the second from 4pm until 11pm – as many women working in the sector were married and found it hard to balance the hours.
Muna Muhyuddin was quoted as saying she obtained a job through the government’s Hafiz program to work in a women’s shop in an old market.
“They told me my salary will be SR4,000 ($1,165) but they will deduct social insurance from it,” she said. “They also told me that I have to work two shifts. I am a widow and I have three kids and I cannot work such long hours.”
Abdullah Al Mukhtar, manager of a well-known commercial centre in Jeddah, admitted the feminisation program was a challenge.
“The biggest problem we face is women who come to work in these shops for a week, sometimes a day or two, and then quit because they cannot adapt to the working environment,” he said. “Maybe it is because of the long working hours or there are no privacy for women."
Al Mukhtar said the centre was not designed properly for women. "These are the obstacles that drive women away, despite the attractive salaries offered,” he said.
He said there were plans to feminise all 80 women’s shops, but they would now be forced to change the business mix because they could not find enough women willing to work in these places.