Women inspectors to monitor clothing stores
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Saudi Arabia's Labour Ministry has appointed 45 female inspectors to check abaya and lingerie shops to see if they offer suitable working conditions for Saudi women.
"Shop owners are not allowed to employ men and women together," said Abdullah Abuthnain, deputy minister for Inspections and Developing Work Atmosphere. "We have set new conditions in order to create a secure work atmosphere for Saudi women."
The first step towards this goal was taken in January when stores selling lingerie and abaya (traditional Persian Gulf female garment) were ordered to put up 1.6-metre separating wall between male and female working areas.
On Monday, Abuthain said the ministry would carry out regular raids to ensure that shops were sticking to the new rules. Businesses found violating ministry directives could lose their commercial license.
The new inspectors will "take over" from the muttawa (religious police) in Riyadh, Jeddah and the eastern provinces.
In a second phase, additional inspectors would be hired to monitor stores in other regions of the country.
This policy is part of King Abdullah's broad social reform aimed at encouraging women's employment.
The Labour Ministry expects it would create at least 44,000 jobs.
In Saudi Arabia, more than one in two women has a college degree but female unemployment stands at 34 per cent.
An analysis by Bloomberg last June showed how the failure to use untapped female labour limits the kingdom's economy.