Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – An academic study carried out in Saudi Arabia has linked the high level of female unemployment in the kingdom to social factors, saying that this is the major reason behind this phenomenon. Female unemployment in Saudi Arabia stands at above 28 percent.
Dr. Fawzia al-Bakr said that this study revealed that the dominant culture in Saudi Arabian society is responsible for determining the types of work that it is acceptable for women to do. She added that women in Saudi Arabia are completely reliant upon their guardians, and this is something that makes it impossible for many Saudi Arabian women to enter the workforce, or work in specific fields.
During a conference entitled “A vision of the future on how to reduce unemployment amongst Saudi Arabian female graduates” held at the King Saud University in Riyadh, Dr. al-Bakr said that there were a number of reasons that contributed to women being unable to join the workforce. She revealed that these reasons include women’s limited administrative and legal experience, and women having to consult with their families and guardians before taking a job. Dr. al-Bakr stressed that this resulted in Saudi Arabian women being forced to miss many job opportunities.
Meanwhile Dr. Fahd al-Yahya, a consultant psychiatrist, also told the conference that unemployment has a number of psychological affects, and this includes causing unemployed women to feel marginalized. Dr. al-Yahya stressed that employment does not just hold material or financial value, but also emotional value, as it allows an individual to feel like a productive and capable member of society. He also said that when one loses a job, this potentially has psychological repercussions, including giving rise to depression, and feelings of low self-esteem.
Unemployment is considered to be one of the leading problems that the Saudi Arabian economy is facing, with unemployment rates in 2010 standing at 10.5 percent. Unemployment amongst women is the main reason being Saudi Arabia’s high unemployment rate, with female unemployment standing at 28.4 percent.
The study also revealed that 75 percent of unemployed women in Saudi Arabia are university graduates, and that 90 percent of female graduates with degrees in humanities are currently unemployed. The study also revealed that the majority of Saudi Arabian female graduates have degrees in teaching and education, as this is a field that is considered to be most appropriate for female employment by Saudi society.
In contrast to the high demand for female university graduates in the private and public sectors in Saudi Arabia, less than 5 percent of Saudi female graduates end up in the business sector, which has among the lowest proportion of female representation in the world.