Despite having a highly educated female population, women in the kingdom struggle to find enough jobs to meet demand
Saudi Arabia is advertising a batch of over 2,500 new civil service jobs, fewer than 10 percent of which are allocated to women, even though more women than men in the kingdom complete higher education.
The positions were posted on the Civil Service Ministry website on Monday, and are divided into seven levels.
Of a total 2,586 positions available, 218 have been allocated to women. For the top-level positions, or Level 9, 141 jobs were advertised; none were made available to women.
The jobs were advertised a day after a landmark report found a huge jump in unemployment figures in the Arab world, especially among women.
The Arab Monetary Fund, a UAE-based department of the Arab League focused on improving fiscal cooperation in the region, found that female youth unemployment in the Middle East stands at over 43 percent, compared with an international average of 12.7 percent.
Overall unemployment among women in Saudi Arabia stood at 33.2 percent in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available.
A report published by the Group of 20 organization of leading economies last year found that “the current level of participation [of women in the Saudi workforce] points to a large reservoir of underutilised human resource”.
“A key goal of the Ministry of Labour is to increase female participation in the labour force, and there are several programmes running to address this,” the report found.
Government programmes such as subsidising childcare and transportation, in the only country in the world that bans women from driving, have increased women’s participation in the workplace.
However, the report found that women’s participation was increasing “at a rate higher than the availability of jobs for females”.
While fewer men than women in Saudi Arabia complete higher education, strict gender segregation of public space means that many jobs are not open to female graduates.
Most female workers in Saudi Arabia are teachers, although legal changes recently opened up new professional avenues for women, including law, interior design and computer engineering.