Sunday 9 September 2012
Last Update 9 September 2012 5:28 am
JEDDAH: Working in Saudi Arabia is a challenge, particularly when it comes to working women. Many expatriate women are facing challenges due to the ongoing Saudization program. There are very few options for expatriate women to find legal work in the Kingdom.
Many young foreign women are unemployed or have been asked to leave their present jobs. As per the Kingdom's nationalization policy, many companies have restricted themselves to hiring only Saudi women, leaving fewer job openings for expatriates. The job situation for expatriate women has therefore become a great concern for the overseas community.
It is quite rare to find women who work, except in the professions of doctors, nurses and the majority of teachers. There is always a scarcity of qualified and experienced women to cover many of the higher professions.
Summaya Khaleel, a graduate student, said: "It's been a month since I completed my graduation and am still unemployed. It is really difficult to find a job in big companies without a master's degree or experience."
Manal Rehman, an executive assistant, is of the opinion that getting a job in a major reputable company has become impossible. The smaller companies do have jobs for women, but they don't readily accept them for lack of proper security.
One of their concerns is to be employed in a secure place. There are several small sector companies which offer jobs to women, whether Saudi or non-Saudi, but one major factor that leaves a person vulnerable in any situation is unfamiliarity, as well as doubtful surroundings and working atmosphere. Uppermost in the minds of today's women are aspects of safety and security, and they consider the background and history of workplaces before considering their job offers.
Commenting on this issue, Munira Fatima said: "I used to work in a private consulting company, which was male dominated. There was no proper sanitary facility and there were only three women due to which I had to leave the job within a week." She added that it was necessary to work in a healthy and comfortable environment.
The Kingdom's policy to provide more jobs for Saudi women has narrowed down the employment opportunity for expatriate women. Multinational companies have started hiring only Saudi women, replacing many non-Saudis.
Thus, the present scenario is difficult for job-seeking expatriate women. It is very rare to find foreign women working under a company's sponsorship. Most of the time it's the legal male guardian, whether father or husband, who is the working woman's sponsor. The sponsorship issue also poses great difficulty for job-seeking expatriate women.
Hiba Ali was an executive assistant in one of the multinational companies in Jeddah. She was forced to leave the job as she was unable to transfer her sponsorship, and eventually was replaced by a Saudi. She said: "It is really sad that I had to leave the job. The company did not have the policy of undertaking the sponsorship for females and I was put under some agency."
As the Saudization program was intensified, these agencies were asked to withdraw the sponsorship of expatriate women. Obviously, they were replaced by Saudis.
Many working women were not willing to go under the sponsorship of random agencies and eventually had to leave their jobs.
Under the circumstances, several young expatriate women continue to look for good professional jobs with salaries suiting their skills.
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