Saudis expect economic boon after female driving ban is lifted - poll

New survey finds that economic benefits are considered most significant impact of historic decree
Saudis expect economic boon after female driving ban is lifted - poll
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Fri 20 Oct 2017 05:50 PM

More than 40 percent of Saudis believe that one of the most significant benefits of lifting the ban on female drivers will be the move’s positive effect on the country’s economy, according to a new Arab News and YouGov survey.

The survey – in which over 500 people participated - found that 42 percent of respondents said that the main impact of lifting the ban is that it will allow women to find work, which would benefit Saudi Arabia’s overall economy.

One-third of respondents said that the most important impact would be an increase in household incomes as women find work and no longer have to hire drivers.

Notably, the economic implications of lifting the ban were generally viewed as more significant than the social impact, with only 28 percent of respondents saying the biggest impact would be ensuring that women feel empowered and equal to men.

“Lifting the driving ban is the latest step in a raft of reforms underway in the Kingdom, both social and economic. But this change will, arguably, have the biggest positive impact on the day-to-day lives of citizens,” said Arab News Editor in Chief Faisal J Abbas. “One of the most revealing findings of the Arab News/YouGov survey was that most women who plan to get behind the wheel will do so in order to get to work.”

“That will see more of the kingdom’s highly educated women finding fulfilling employment, boosting household incomes, and helping to meet Saudi Arabia’s ambitious economic aim of shaking its ‘addiction’ to oil,” he added.

September research from Bloomberg Intelligence suggested that the decree has the potential to add $90 billion to Saudi Arabia’s economic output by 2030.

Currently, only about 20 percent of Saudi women are economically active. The Bloomberg research found that adding one percentage point to the rate every year could see 70,000 women introduced into the labour market each year, which, in turn, could lift potential GDP growth by as much as 0.9 percentage points a year.

The Arab News and YouGov poll also found that 77 percent of Saudis agree with the decision, including 82 percent of females and seven in 10 males.

Freedom of movement and a belief that driving is a basic human right were the top reasons cited by supporters of the decree. Among those who disagreed, 54 percent said they believe it is not safe for women to drive, with another 36 percent saying “it is against local cultural traditions.”

Of Saudi women who plan to drive, 85 percent said they would purchase a vehicle. Budget models are favoured, with 44 percent saying they intend to spend less than SR40,000 ($10,666).

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