Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that for the first time, Saudi women are now working in the slaughterhouses that provide the sacrificial animals to mark the end of Haj. While the jobs are seasonal, they are valid employment. The women work as managers overseeing quality control; as an interface between female customers and the house; and in distributing the meat to the poor.
Slowly, the conceptual barriers between “men’s work” and “women’s work” are being broken down.
For 1st time, Saudi women work in slaughterhouses
Abdullah Al-Dhhas | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
MINA — For the first time ever, 15 Saudi women are supervising the slaughtering of sheep, cattle and camels at Al- Moaissim Model Slaughterhouse, near Mina during this Haj season.
Bandar Al-Suhairi, chairman of the company operating the slaughterhouse, said the women are supervising the slaughtering of animals, assisting other women who want to use the slaughterhouse and distributing meat among the poor and needy.
He said the women employees were assigned the task of supervision and control and they prevent other women from entering the place where animals are being slaughtered.
“These are seasonal workers. The women are being employed for the first time at a slaughterhouse during the Haj,” he said.
In a culture where the idea of sexual purity can reach the level of pathological obsession, it doesn’t take much to set off an explosion.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Jazirah commenting on the most recent hullabaloo. A schoolgirl recites a poem for the visiting Minister of Education. The Minister, in a perfectly normal act, kissed the girl on her head. Not on her lips, on her head. And the result is a firestorm alleging sexual and moral improprieties. This is nuts and the writer isn’t reluctant to say so.
Who has victimized Janah?
Abdul Rahman Al-Shlash | Al-Jazirah
Janah Miteb Al-Shammari is a 12-year-old schoolgirl from Hail. Education Minister Prince Khaled Al-Faisal visited her school. She insisted on reciting a poem in his presence on the occasion of the National Day. The Prince was impressed by the promising talent of the young girl. In appreciation, he kissed her in a fatherly fashion on the forehead.
The kiss was from a top official, a father and an education leader to a young talent who needed support and encouragement. This historic moment will forever be imprinted in the memory of the young girl throughout her life. It is not very often that a boy or a girl student has the opportunity to meet with the man in charge of education in the country.
Regretfully this spectacular scene was marred by some sick-minded people, who linked the moment to stagnant conceptions in their brains.
Citizens with normal minds did not see anything wrong in a little girl reciting a poem and a top education official appreciating her talent with a kiss on the forehead. They only saw in the situation a kind gesture by a father towards one of his creative and talented daughters.
Saudi Gazette reports on a divorce case before the Personal Status Court in Jeddah that wrapped several issues that almost always accompany divorces in the Kingdom into one decree. It’s not clear whether this is a result of the ongoing legal reforms in Saudi Arabia or is the result of the action of one judge.
Usually, a woman seeking divorce would have to file several separate actions with the court. The divorce, the issue of alimony, the issue of child custody, and the issue of child visitation would each involve an individual court hearing. Each step could result in untoward and expensive delays. In effect, this would allow one party to use the legal process as a cudgel against the other, regardless of the merits of the case.
I do hope that this is a universal reform in legal process in the Kingdom.
Family case verdicts issued altogether for the first time
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — In an unprecedented move, the Personal Status Court in Jeddah governorate issued last Thursday several verdicts in one go in favor of a woman who was petitioning for a divorce.
The document that was issued to her outlined the various decisions including nullification of her marriage contract, visitation rights to see her children and the right to process her children’s papers at various government authorities if she wins custody of them.
The Yemeni woman claimed her husband beat her up and insulted her. According to an informed source in the Ministry of Justice, early last month the ministry ordered the personal status courts to ensure verdicts from cases that require more than one decision are issued altogether and compiled in one document.
These cases should be given priority and processed quickly. The verdicts were issued following a lawsuit the woman filed in the court against her husband. She claimed he mistreated her and did not want to live with him.
Saudi Gazette runs a story noting that most Saudi university graduates — male and female — are earning degrees in fields that do not lead to jobs.
Some see this as a problem. If your goal is employment or your concern is employment figures, this could clearly be seen as a problem.
It overlooks another facet of education, though: the rounded, developed individual.
Certainly, there are fields of study that are dead-ends for all but a few. There are also majors that lead to fields already glutted with earlier graduates. While this isn’t particularly new, the current unemployment figures around the world do suggest that, if the point is employment, then people should not be flocking into these majors and schools should probably be reducing the number of classes they offer in them.
This is not a Saudi-only problem or issue. American universities turn out graduates in field for which there are no jobs, or only low-paying jobs. It’s hard to say, though, that they’re worthless for the individual student. It can only be said that they don’t lead to employment.
63% Saudis enrolled in majors unsuitable for market
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — A majority of young Saudi men and women in colleges study subjects which are not in demand in the labor market, an economist was quoted as saying in a section of the Arabic press here on Saturday.
It is important that high school graduates focus on technical and vocational training, especially in light of the fact that 90 percent of those who signed up for Hafiz Unemployment Aid Program hold degrees with specializations unsuitable for the market, Dr. John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Saudi-Fransi Bank, told Al-Hayat.
Some 46 percent or 290,000 of the Kingdom’s unemployed youth hold bachelor’s degrees. The percentage of unemployed women with bachelor’s degrees stands at 88. Hafiz program has 320,000 applicants in its database.
The idea of cinemas in Saudi Arabia is a fraught one. While they used to exist, up to the 1960s at least, in some parts of the Kingdom, they have all be shuttered in the name of keeping the sexes separate and avoiding the dispersal of “bad” ideas. They remain unpopular with a large part of the Saudi population for those reasons, but others see not only a desire for cinema, but an economic need.
Saudi Gazette reports that the Ministry of Labor is at least open to the idea of re-opening cinemas. It sees it, tentatively, as a new area in which Saudis can be employed. This would go along with the fact that Saudis are becoming more adept at making films, even if they have to cross borders to do so. Saudis certainly cross borders to view films, as Bahraini theaters are pleased to record in their balance sheets.
The arguments about content seem to now be obviated by the fact of satellite TV and the Internet. Content that was once considered anathema is now common, though filtering and blocking things like obscenity and objectionable religious and political content continue (to decreasing effect). Separating the sexes ought not be a difficult task for a country that has been separating them for a few generations now.
Many see the reintroduction of cinemas in Saudi Arabia as inevitable. At present, though, it’s a matter of “Soon, just not now.”
Cinema is now an economic activity
Saudi Gazette report
THE Ministry of Labor in the Kingdom has included cinema in the economic activities that people can work in. The ministry has included various cinema and other entertainment activities, film production as well as distribution and display of movies among economic activities, a statement of the ministry put on its website said.
In an exclusive report this June, Maaal Arabic newspaper revealed that an investor has officially submitted an application to the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media for a license to set up a movie theater in Saudi Arabia.
Through its website, the ministry did not give more details on these specializations and the possibility of working in them nor did it specify conditions and regulations for someone willing to engage in such activities, according to Al Arabiya website.
Earlier, the audiovisual commission did not object to the idea in principle. It asked the investor to give a full explanation on the project including a future strategy.
If the commission thinks the investment is feasible, it could ask higher authorities to clear the way for movie theaters nationwide, sources reportedly said.
Nitiqat is the most recent iteration of “Saudization,” the effort to convert jobs held by expat workers into jobs held by Saudis. The programs has seen considerable succes, Nathan Field writes for the Saudi-US Trade Group. Structural reforms in employment have taken place — though other changes are still necessary. Employers are now facing real consequences when they try to skirt employment law; salaries have risen; companies whose existence depended on hiring low-wage, low-skill expats have been shuttered.
Over the past three years, the number of Saudis employed in the private sector has doubled; the number of women working has increased by a multiple of seven. Attitudes about manual labor seem to be changing as well. Saudis are beginning to accept jobs that were once — with no factual reason — deemed to be beneath them. This is helped by increases in salaries paid to those doing those jobs.
The factors that have led to the problems of employment developed over decades. Their solutions will, hopefully, not take as long. Those problems absolutely need to be solve, though, so what improvements have happened should be embraced.
Nitaqat Three Years On: A Summer 2014 Report Card
Four years into the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia has been an oasis of relative calm and stability in an otherwise tumultuous Middle East region. This is partially because the perceived social, economic and political dysfunction resulting from Arab Spring reform movements has had a sobering effect on Saudi perceptions. In fact, many Saudis consider the chief consequence of the Arab Spring to be unprecedented “Fowda” (chaos). As a result, the government’s Edmund Burkian message that sudden, radical reform leads to traumatizing political and economic instability is widely accepted.
However, the sobering reality of regional instability has not been the only brake on pressure for political reform in Saudi Arabia. Meaningful domestic reform undertaken by the government since 2011 has also had an effect.
In particular, the Ministry of Labor has been leading an aggressive labor reform campaign that has begun to re-balance the labor – employer relationship in ways that are more favorable to normal, average Saudis. In December 2012, the Saudi-US Trade Group (SUSTG) published Nitaqat: Towards a Saudi New Deal, my analysis of the Nitaqat initiative up to that point. My assessment was that, based on the available information at the time, some significant results had been achieved in Year One following the Arab Spring. This article will evaluate the progress of the labor reform program based on the data that has emerged in the ensuing eighteen months.
As of summer 2014, three years into what must be understood as a long-term project, the available evidence suggests the Ministry of Labor is progressing towards its goals, meaningful progress is occurring and that the foundations of longer-term sustained success are in place.
Today’s Arab News carries several articles that bear on the Nitiqat process:
In 2002, a fire at a girls school in Mecca claimed the lives of 15 students. An investigation into the event identified several contributing factors. Among them was the fact that many girls schools were being operated, not out of purpose-build schools, but in rented facilities that had been constructed for other purposes, often as apartments.
The situation hasn’t changed a great deal over the past decade, according to a report in Saudi Gazette. Parents of girls attending schools in Jeddah are pointing out the sub-standard buildings into which they entrust their daughters. They’re not happy about it, reasonably enough. The schools may have desks and blackboards, perhaps even computers, but they’re sorely lacking in even basic safety measures.
2,000 girls in Jeddah face danger of school collapse
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — There are concerns that a two-story rented building in north Jeddah that has been converted into a government school poses a serious threat to the lives of the 2,000 girls that use it, reported Makkah daily.
The building in the Hamadaniyah area looks perfect from outside but inside it lacks all safety measures, parents and teachers claimed.
Though the building bears a signboard saying it is the 96th elementary school for girls, in fact it has also been made into an intermediate and secondary school.
The 800 elementary students come to school early in the morning and leave about at 11 a.m.
The 1,200 intermediate and secondary students will come immediately after that and remain until around 6 p.m. There is no other government school for girls in the neighborhood, which is why it looks after so many students.
While they can’t drive cars in the Kingdom, Saudi women drive themselves toward success, a report from Oxford Strategic Consulting says. Al Arabiya TV extracts this from a press release by the group that notes Saudi women’s achievement in academics, but also their uphill struggles against societal barriers. An interesting data point pulled out of the study is that Saudi men are more motivated by religion or beliefs than by achievement for its own sake.
Neither link goes to the study itself. Just how questions were phrased and interpreted is not made clear. The overall results, however, confirm my own experience with Saudi women: they are truly interested in showing that they can manage for themselves and they do — when given the chance.
A considerably larger proportion of Saudi females are more likely to “strive to achieve” than their male counterparts, a survey found earlier this week, putting the figures at 35 percent and 20 percent of respondents respectively.
The survey, which was commissioned by Oxford Strategic Consulting, and released by the UK/Dubai-based HR consultancy, and polled nearly 1,000 Saudi nationals living in kingdom, asked respondents to list three things that most motivated them and three things that most discouraged them.
The survey indicated that Saudi women were also markedly more prone than men to feel discouraged by their own negative feelings (49% cf. 35%) and lack of personal achievement (24% cf. 14%), the report said.
Young Saudis are changing their expectations about work, Al Arabiya TV reports. Rather than waiting around for high-status/low-productivity jobs in the public sector, they are now looking at and taking jobs in the service sector. They are bucking this (recent) historical social disdain for these jobs because they realize that any moral job that pays a salary is a respectable job and that earning a salary is much better than not earning a salary. Saudi males are starting to catch up with the women, who have had far more pragmatic ideas about work.
A large number of young Saudis have joined jobs that were considered beneath them in the past and are proving that such negative traditions and norms are not an obstacle to their ambitions.
It has become normal to see young Saudis working in men’s fashion shops, restaurants and coffee shops, serving customers to acquire the experience and work culture that will allow them to achieve higher goals.
These Saudis are reflected in the recent data released by the Ministry of Labor that showed the number of Saudis working in the private sector has reached 1.47 million in 2013, representing a 332.2 percent increase from 2012.
This increase was also helped by the ministry’s Saudization efforts and the security campaigns that were conducted against illegal workers, Al-Hayat daily reported.
Saudi Gazette reports on the latest demographics of Saudi Arabia. According to the report, Saudis represent 68% of the population, leaving 32% as resident expatriates. The ratio of Saudi males to females is close to 50:50, with 10.18 males compared to 10.09 females, in keeping with the global ratio of the sexes.
Saudis account for 68% of Kingdom’s population
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — There were 20.27 million Saudi citizens at the end of 2013, accounting for about 68 percent of the Kingdom’s total population of 29.99 million, local daily Al-Madinah reported Wednesday.
Quoting an official statistical report by he Central Department of Statistics and Information, the newspaper said the Kingdom’s population went up by 2.7 percent last year, from 29.2 million in 2012.
The report said there were 10.18 million Saudi males, 34 percent of the entire population, compared to 10.09 million females (33.6 percent).
The report said there were 9.92 million non-Saudis living in the Kingdom in 2013, representing about 32 percent of the population.
According to the report, there were 6.64 million male expatriates (22.1 percent) and 3.08 million women (10.3 percent).
In Saudi Arabia, the issue of women’s working is a fraught one. People argue about whether women should be working outside the home at all. And then they argue about which kinds of jobs are “appropriate” for Saudi women.
There was huge social outcry when some Saudi women said that they were willing and able to take jobs as maids. This was “beneath their dignity,” many declared. Starving with dignity, I guess, is preferred.
But nursing as a profession is also a societal flashpoint. Nurses have to deal with patients and their bodies. They might even have to deal with patients of the opposite sex — and their bodies. And there’s the problem. Saudi society has developed an unnecessary linkage between bodies and sex and sex is a highly regulated (in principle) subject. Until recently, only Saudi orphans could work as nurses because — as they had no families to be ashamed — they were viewed as shameless.
That attitude hasn’t changed much, according to this story in Saudi Gazette. Saudi women still have to deal with stereotypes (from God-knows-where) that nursing is somehow comparable to immoral behavior. Hospitals, to the dismay of some, means the mixing of the sexes in the workplace. Worst of all, it includes bodies. sometimes, naked bodies that have to be touched. This might be acceptable for expat nurses (God knows their morals are already questionable), but it is not acceptable for good Saudi women.
Saudi nurses still tackling stereotypes
Saudi Gazette report
MAKKAH — A number of young Saudi women nurses are facing problems and obstacles in their work environment that hinder them from performing their duties properly.
Nurse Abeer Al-Sa’edi told Makkah Daily that some people reject the idea of women working as it allows for both genders to mingle, going against Saudi traditions.
She said: “There is no doubt that some television dramas give the wrong image of working nurses and instilled incorrect stereotypes in the minds of many who are against women working in this sector.”
Iman, another nurse, stressed the need to develop nursing by providing nurses with the necessary knowledge and professional development in addition to improving the image of the profession in the community by highlighting the role of employees.
Arab News reports that Saudi women are taking birth control seriously. The article — which has a mishmash of figures that really do not provide clarity to the article — does point out the increased use of birth control in the country. The expense of large families is deemed to be the major factor, though not rushing into pregnancy upon marriage is also cited.
SR108m spent on birth control pills
JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR
Saudi women have bought over six million birth control pills costing SR108 million last year, according to a study by Saudi-based pharmacies, Makkah newspaper reported.
The total sale of the medication amounts to SR108,585,594 for about 5,877,318 medical boxes and units while the list also shows that women usually buy certain brands, with the Gynera brand being in the lead with sales of SR34.2 million, followed by Yasmin at SR27.2 million, Marvelon at SR23 million and Neo Sampoon at SR4,600,000 last year.
Economist Thamer Abduwahhab blames the high cost of living in the Kingdom as the reason for families who are resorting to limit their size. “Everything is expensive these days, from the cost of giving birth in hospital to clothing, food and schooling,” he said. “Families now prefer to have a maximum three children and some believe that one child is enough for them and that’s all they can afford,” he added.