Double-team for Women’s Employment

In my post last February on women’s employment I asked if whether we were moving towards more regulation or more segregation. According to a directive issued last week by Prince Khaled al-Faisal, Governor of Mecca, I guess regulation it is.

The directive, which was published in local media last Wednesday, is based on a letter sent by Labor Minister Ghazi al-Gosaibi who emphasized that the new labor law has deleted the clause banning women from working in mixed workplaces, and replaced it with a new clause that applies to both genders stating that “both the employer and employee must adhere to the law in conformity with Sharia.”

Now this last statement may sound vague and ill-defined, but it is still worthy of attention because the letter also affirmed that the Ministry of Labor is the government’s body responsible for regulating women’s working and that any involvement by other government’s bodies is unacceptable, in what seems to be a hint to the Commission and their sympathizers who keep nosing into these issues.

However, and as we have previously seen many times in the magic kingdom, writing laws is one thing and implementing them is quite another, especially when you don’t have an elected parliament to monitor the performance of government and question them when they fail to achieve their announced goals.

It was Ghazi al-Gosaibi who has tried three years ago to make working in women’s shops limited to Saudi women before he had to back down after fierce opposition by conservatives. What is different this time, though, is that he is not fighting alone. The support of Khaled al-Faisal, a figure many conservatives hate as much as they hate al-Gosaibi, could be the push the government need to put the laws in effect. It remains to be seen how crucial is this support will be.

UPDATE: In his column in Al Hayat today Abdul-Aziz al-Suwaid makes a good point about the vagueness of the law, asking MOL to define clear guidelines to protect women should they come under harassment. I totally agree.

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5 thoughts on “Double-team for Women’s Employment

  1. doesnt that just mean that the whole issue has been handed over to the religious authorities? isnt that just further entangling state and religion?

  2. No. The directive says it is the job of the Ministry of Labor to oversee the implementation of the law, not any other authority, religious or otherwise.

  3. Saudi women need the work opportunities whether mixed or not, it’s not a privilege it’s their right, they are now in a lousy position under the abuse & domination of their male relatives or the strict conditions the society require from them to appear in public…They need to be able to earn their own living and start shaping a new society where they can live independently with dignity…I feel sorry for those lines of women fighting for a lousy -paid job in a remote village across dangerous roads or a private job at a private business that pays them less than the cost of the transportation…these women need jobs and laws to protect their rights, they also need to be at first away from the direct contact with the public since the lousy working conditions in the service sectors (shops or supermarkets for instance) can fuel the rejection of the society if there were customers offenses (& there will be) to the women…We should start by banks, factories, airlines offices, companies and governmental sectors like government agencies and municipalities…and we need both men & women leaders to take a stand in this!!!

  4. It is interesting when the topic of work in Saudi Arabia is discussed noboby touches the issue of cultural roadblocks. Everyone is good at slogans and rhetoric but not action. My former students in Hassa were good with talk about jobs for saudis and the foreigners go home. So I asked a simple question who is going to let their daughter or wife work? A’outhu billah Haram akhi!! Lol. Question two was which one of you are going to work in construction, military, taxi driver, gas station etc. This work was below them. In every society someone has to take out the trash. You cannot have it both ways and select only suitable jobs are acceptable and leave the bad jobs for Shiites and foreigners. Yes I said Shiites because I was repeatedly told when I lived in Hofuf that if you see a Saudi doing manual labor he is a Shia.

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