The decision of Prince Mohammed bin Salman should not be confused with genuine progressiveness
Thanks to the oil rent and a relatively small population, the Saudi State could afford to offer very well paid jobs in the public sector, with considerable benefits, long vacations and a generous pension system with early retirement. However, with the price of oil going through a difficult time, and with a growing population, this country will struggle to maintain its high standards of living without integrating women into the economy, allowing them to drive is just one step on the road to a more productive workforce.
With the end of the ban, the city of Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, was filled with women who took the wheel in celebration, eager to take advantage of the new right granted to them. However, the role of women in Saudi society is still critical, and if Prince Mohammed bin Salman's goal was to ensure gender equity, the reforms would go beyond the right to drive a car.
Only 1 in 5 Saudi workers are women
Ziad Daoud, chief economist for the Middle East at Bloomberg Economics, argues that the end of the ban will boost the economy. "Most likely, ending the ban will increase the number of women seeking employment, increasing the size of the workforce, as well as the level of income."
The question of the size of the labor force is of special care for Saudi Arabia, because according to The Independent, of 12 million paid jobs that generates the economy of this country, only 5 million are occupied by Saudis, while the other 7 million are occupied by immigrants.
The government sees the integration of women as a key strategy to close this gap, because despite being better prepared with a greater participation in tertiary education according to UNESCO data, only 20% of Saudi workers are women. In neighboring countries the rate is higher: 30% in Oman, 48% in Kuwait and 53% in Qatar.
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A decision of 90 billion dollars
In addition to the size of the labor force, it worries the capacity of the same one to produce wealth, because of the bulky system of benefits that the workers take advantage of, in which the State incurs many expenses for its maintainance.
However, a study by Bloomberg Economics projects that through measures such as allowing women to drive, continuing to integrate women into the economy could bring up to 90 billion in economic productivity by the year 2030. This figure would be comparable to selling 5% of the shares of the world's largest oil company, Saudi Arabian Oil Co.
"It's going to take a while before these gains materialize, at least as the economy adapts and assimilates an increasing number of women in search of jobs," says Daoud.
Latin American Post | Pedro Bernal
Translated from "¿Igualdad o motivos económicos? La razón por la que Arabia Saudí permite a sus mujeres conducir"