Women have foot in the door as the Saudi workplace opens up

World

Women have foot in the door as the Saudi workplace opens up

Keeping half the population at home is a way of life the conservative Islamic kingdom can no longer afford

Vivian Nereim

It looks like a woman’s world on the 29th floor of Tamkeen Tower, where a call centre for Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics overlooks the beige sprawl of Riyadh. Past frosted glass doors, the few men to one side of the room are vastly outnumbered by female colleagues sitting at desks spread across the office.

The scene is the opposite of what most workplaces in the conservative Islamic kingdom looked like a few years ago, reflecting the growing influx of women into the job market. “Look where we were and where we are now,” says Reem Almuhanna, 31, who oversees the call centre’s 74 employees as they gather data on households and businesses.

Keeping women at home is a luxury the world’s largest exporter of crude can no longer afford. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 35, is overhauling the economy to prepare for a post-oil future and striving to create jobs amid sputtering economic growth. With the cost of living on the rise as the government cuts petrol and electricity subsidies and introduces new fees and taxes, including a 15% ­VAT, Saudi households increasingly depend on women working...

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