The Washington Post runs a front-page article on the phenomenon of Saudi Arabia’s paying to educate women and then being unable to put them to work. The government, with one hand, seeks to reform social attitudes about women and to make them part of the solution to an economy that is shrinking. With the other it continues to place women outside the economy as anything but consumers. The contradiction is hard on the women who are tantalizingly promised engagement in their country’s development; it is a disaster for the country as a whole.

Saudi Arabia struggles to employ its most-educated women
Kevin Sullivan

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — Manar Saud graduated in May from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., with a master’s degree in organizational leadership, paid for by a Saudi government scholarship. She came home to Riyadh eager to put her new skills to work, but after six months of looking for a job, she is still unemployed.

“It’s really sad,” said Saud, 27, sipping coffee in a Starbucks, a black scarf framing her face, with floral trim on her long black abaya robe. “You come back so well prepared and so eager. Then all of a sudden, there is a brick wall in your face.”

Saud is part of a rising generation of young Saudi women caught between a government spending billions to educate and employ them, and a deeply conservative religious society that fiercely resists women in the workplace.

Although Saudi Arabia has vast oil riches, its per capita gross domestic product ranks only 40th in the world, and many here note that the national economy would be stronger if half the brainpower in the country were put to better use.

“Teach me. Invest in me. Let me work. I don’t get it,” Saud said. “My friends are all in the same situation. What’s wrong here?

November:13:2012 - 10:16 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink
4 Responses to “Unemployable”
  1. 1
    G Jeff Said:
    November:13:2012 - 12:57 

    You’ve written about it before, and it still holds true. The right hand in Saudi has no idea what left is doing (bad example here and no disrespect meant). In 2006 the SRCA said that they were looking at hiring and/or training female paramedics for use on female patients and for use at large events like the Hajj. No retraction was ever mentioned, no change in ideas, but it never happened. However, colleges in the Kingdom are currently training and educating young Saudi women to be pre-hospital paramedic level providers. Why? No jobs exist? Why is such a program even allowed and funded by the Government if there is no possible job available for graduates? Saudi is not a “bad” place, its not filled with “stupid” people, however, until some basic communication skills are practiced, it will always be dependent on expats.

  2. 2
    Glen Said:
    November:14:2012 - 11:59 

    I asked a female co-worker today about this article and her comment is that many women (and/or their families, as often it is their fathers or brothers who overrule employment offers) are “picky” about jobs. KSA is an employers-market, although the Nitiqat requirements are changing that a bit for Saudi nationals, and potential employees do not necessarily have the luxury, as she implied, of being able to choose that perfect job.

    Then again, many jobs being offered women are beneath the skill sets they have acquired abroad (i.e., offering a secretarial or assistant position to a woman who has earned an MBA). That may not be the best example, as I’m not entirely convinced of the value of an MBA. (-:

  3. 3
    Jerry M Said:
    November:14:2012 - 12:10 

    My wife used to have a Saudi friend who simply could not get permission to have a job. I know this is only one example but I hear stories like this all the time. I don’t see a solution without a real change in society. Does anyone know if the next generation will make a difference?

  4. 4
    Contradictions in Saudi Employment Schemes | Crossroads Arabia Pinged With:
    November:20:2012 - 08:50 

    [...] Unemployable [...]

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