JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR | ARAB NEWS STAFF
Monday 22 October 2012
Last Update 22 October 2012 12:17 pm
Saudi society has been divided over pros and cons of a recent decision by the Ministry of Labor to allow Saudi women to work as sales clerks in gold and jewelry shops. Some say there is not enough security against robbery. Others say it will help decrease the number of unemployed Saudi women.
Arab News visited gold shops in Jeddah and asked shoppers and shopkeepers about this decision. Yemeni sales clerk Ali Awad said there is no way a woman would survive working in these shops. “These kind of shops has long working hours, sometimes we work from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. one shift with only prayer-time breaks. Women need to take care of their children and cook for their husbands, not work long hours selling and buying gold,” he said. “What about security? What if a thief comes to the shop and steals something or even threatens her with a knife? What would she do? I think this will never work,” he added.
In the same shop there was a female shopper, Dania Hejazi. She said technology and security men at the gate can help women succeed in this job. “Every shop now has security cameras and you can always see security men walking about shopping centers so there is no need to worry,” she said. “I think they should work in shifts to avoid long hours. No one, man or woman, should work more than eight hours a day. It is inhumane. Men also should have time to spend with their wife and children,” she added.
Most gold shop owners in Jeddah work in their shop and employ family members as sales clerks. “I can never trust anyone with my business, I own two gold shops and I’m always around to make sure no one is stealing or forging anything,” said Abu Mesaed. “I have recently employed my nephew in one of the shops because I couldn’t operate two shops at the same time. I still check on him every day to make sure all is going smooth,” he added.
“I don’t believe I can trust women with my own business. Yhey have soft hearts and might give an unnecessary discount to their friends of other female shoppers. I believe this job is made for men only as they are good at math and can buy and sell gold without worrying about the tenderness of female shoppers,” said Abu Mesaed.
“This is another step forward to empower Saudi women,” said businesswoman Maha Terad. “There is nothing wrong with women working in jewelry and gold shops. Some already work at Fetihi and Mouawad jewelry boutiques, so where is the harm in working in gold shops as well,” she wondered. “Saudi men always oppose change. They did the same with female cashiers and feminizing lingerie shops. The way I see this is that men will just get used to it if the media ignored them and if we proceeded with what the ministry decided,” she added.
According to Al-Eqtisadiah daily, Kareem Al-Anzi, the chief of the National Committee for Precious Metals and Gems at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce, said that the work nature at the gold workshops and factories is inappropriate for women. They can only be hired for installing stones, design and graphics because of their elegant taste. They can also work in production and processing stages but not at sales outlets. “The committee will do everything possible to address this decision because we think it will not solve any problems but will create other problems,” he said. “There is no country in the world that limits gold trading or focuses on specific sectors to address the problem of women unemployment,” he added. Al-Anz said that looking at it from a practical and social aspect, this feminizing decision would have negative repercussions on the female employees and the gold shops. “The female body structure is no match for potential risks such as robberies and theft as experienced by all gold shops in the world,” he said.
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