Despite facing many hurdles in allowing more Saudi women to work in retail jobs, the government keeps pushing in that direction. The latest step is a directive by the Ministry of Labor stating that abaya, the long black cloak women traditionally wear, and nightgown boutiques in the Kingdom must fully staff female employees by June 10, according to Arab News. The newspaper spoke with Fahd al-Tukhaifi, assistant undersecretary of development at the ministry, about the decision:
Commenting on the fact that most of such shops are managed or owned by men, he said, “I personally envision three main requirements to avoid problems in this regard. First, the employer must veil or somehow conceal the interior of the shop if women are working inside. Men should be prohibited from entering these shops with the exception of family sections. The second requirement is that the employer should not under any circumstances employ men and women jointly in the same department.” He added that there should be no fewer than three female employees working the same shift.
The third condition, according to Al-Tukhaifi, stipulates that men working in the same shop should refrain from entering the female department.
“Men visiting the mall or shopping are to be prohibited from entering these shops, unless in the company of their families,” he said.
He personally envisions?
These remarks by the Labor Ministry official can probably explain why the push for women employment in the private sector has been such a mess. Instead of speaking about well thought out plans to implement these changes in the job market, this official is offering his personal opinion on how things should be done. Labor Minister Adel Fakeih is said to be a man who believes in studies and numbers, but such statements by his subordinates undermine his efforts in the uphill battle of Saudization and tackling unemployment.