Are Saudi women gaming the Hafiz unemployment scheme? Arab News explores the issue today noting that unemployment is massive among Saudi women as they are only ‘permitted’ to work in education or medicine. That’s not categorically true as the byline of a female journalist demonstrates, but it is essentially true; women work only marginally in other fields. But many women seem to feel that the unemployment benefits are due them whether or not they’re actively seeking employment, the goal of the Hafiz program. They will be discovered when they reject job placement offers and, according to sources, should and will be punished.
It is remarkable that 80% of the beneficiaries of Hafiz are women. I think the number is probably justifiable given the rate of female unemployment, but the program’s workings are not transparent so it’s hard to tell. The program is not, however, simply a money transfer to Saudi citizens of either sex. It is a conditional benefit that is intended to cover gaps that occur while actively seeking employment.
Hafiz program: Women are major beneficiaries
DIANA AL-JASSEM | ARAB NEWS
JEDDAH: With the implementation of the first phase of the Hafiz unemployment program on Dec. 31, 700,000 Saudis will start receiving their monthly allowance.
Reports issued by the Ministry of Labor confirm that the list consists of 560,000 Saudi women against 140,000 Saudi men, a discrepancy that has sparked the debates on unemployment among Saudi women. Some Saudi men accuse women of registering in Hafiz without ever having looked for a job.
Arab News raised the question whether women registered in Hafiz are involuntarily unemployed or if they simply prefer not to work. Do women participate in Hafiz because they are in need of a job or did they find Hafiz a golden opportunity to earn money for doing nothing?
Aisah Natto, a Saudi businesswomen and board member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), confirmed there were two important reasons for the large number of unemployed Saudi women benefitting from Hafiz.
Saudi Gazette has two articles related to women’s employment. The first concerns an offer of 28,000 jobs in education. The article notes that the offer is conditional, with the condition being that the women be qualified in the academic subject area. That doesn’t seem terribly onerous, frankly.
The second says that women will now be allowed to study Industrial and Electrical Engineering at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, beginning at the start of the next academic year. That’s good news, but will women be allowed to take up jobs in those fields? One can hope…