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Tue 22 Jul 2014 12:26 PM

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84% surge in Saudi women working in private sector

Government awareness campaigns and incentives help boost number to 400,000 in 2013

84% surge in Saudi women working in private sector
Saudi women arrive at a shopping mall in Riyadh on January 12, 2013. Saudi King Abdullah has appointed women for the first time to a top advisory body, with decrees published marking a breakthrough in a kingdom that imposes stringent restrictions on females. (AFP/Getty Images)

The number of women employed in the private sector in Saudi Arabia rose 84 percent last year to around 400,000 employees, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Labor this week.

The ministry revealed in a report on Monday that the private sector accounted for around 400,000 Saudi female employees last year, an increase of 183,000 from 2012, Arab News reported.

The Saudi government has taken several measures to encourage the employment of more women in the private sector, such as paying half the salaries of workers, increasing the minimum wage of teachers to SAR5,000 ($1,333) and provided them each a SR600 transport allowance per month.

The ministry has also launched an awareness campaign to encourage more women to enter the work force, particularly the private sector.

As a result of these initiatives, the number of Saudi women working in the private sector has risen from just 48,406 in 2009 to around 217,000 in 2012, the report added.

However, a survey earlier this month in Riyadh found nearly two thirds of female employees surveyed who working in women’s shops in the capital are considering leaving their jobs due to the inconvenient working hours.

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 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.