As per a Bloomberg report, Saudi Arabia's move to lift the ban on driving is likely to result in a higher number of women seeking jobs, boost the size of the workforce and lift overall incomes and output.
“Independence Day”, read the frontpage headline in the Kingdom’s leading English newspaper, Arab News, as Saudi Arabia lifted the decades-long ban that prohibited women from driving. Saudi women took to the streets on Sunday morning celebrating the freedom to drive.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry had issued a decree last year, in September 2017, stating that the ban will be lifted on June 24, 2018, also mentioning that the presence of the male guardian would not be necessary for women to attain a driving license or while driving.
The early driving licenses were issued to the women who already held foreign licenses. Police on the roads encouraged Saudi women by giving them flowers and fathers gave them blessings as they came out on the streets in their cars. Women and their families celebrated the occasion by posting photos and videos on social media. However many people still don’t seem to be convinced about the government’s idea of letting women drive.
Why was the ban lifted?
The fight to attain this freedom started in 1990 when 40 women protested against the ban by driving on the roads of the capital city of Riyadh. The change has also come as part of social and economic reform, as the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, wishes to reduce its dependence on oil and experiment with new ways to expand its economy.
The series of social and economic reform which the Kingdom is undertaking is part of the plan known as ‘Saudi Vision 2030’. These reforms were pushed by the 32-year-old son of King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is said to have faith in human rights and women empowerment. This social reform of giving the right to women to drive is the part of this plan.
A $90 billion reason?
Besides being seen as a plain human rights initiative, there is also some smart economics that has gone into this decision. As per a Bloomberg report, Saudi Arabia’s move to lift the ban on driving is likely to result in a higher number of women seeking jobs, boost the size of the workforce and lift overall incomes and output.
The measure could add as much as $90 billion to economic output by 2030, with the benefits extending beyond that date, according to Bloomberg Economics. As of 2017, while many women graduated from universities, only 20.9 percent of them registered their participation in the labour force, reported Hindustan Times.
Queries that remain
According to Saudi system of guardianship, Saudi women are required to take permission from male relatives to work and to marry and also for everyday activities like travel, pursuing higher education and medical checkup. However, Saudi monarchy has ordered for a review of these laws.