The Saudi Labour Ministry announced last week a new long-term plan to increase the number of women working in the public sector.
The plan, announced May 9th, will involve a survey of industrial, service and public administration jobs across the country to find those suitable for women, according to deputy labour minister Dr. Fahd al-Takhifi.
"It is important that the ministry's plan includes the preparation of field studies that aim to develop regulations organising women's work and that involve all relevant parties," said Ali al-Bawardi, a human resources specialist at the Gulf Training Company in Riyadh.
Al-Bawardi told Al-Shorfa that it is crucial the studies focus on the challenges and obstacles standing in the way of employing Saudi women in the public sector, and propose recommendations and solutions.
Promoting job opportunities for women must be done in accordance with sharia law, be accompanied with more inclusion in all job sectors, and create the right climate for working women through laws and regulations, he said.
Noura al-Rajeh, head of the Higher Technical Institute for girls in Medina, underscored the importance of co-ordinating efforts to promote women in the public sector.
One proposed effort would be the formation of a joint team comprised of representatives from the Labour Ministry, the General Organisation for Technical Education and Vocational Training, and the Human Resources Development Fund, she said.
"This proposed team would conduct field visits to the targeted sectors with the aim of gathering relevant information and data on the current workforce as well as jobs that can be 'feminised', and [determining] the necessary technical, training and rehabilitation requirements," al-Rajeh told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Rajeh said the Labour Ministry had adopted 13 previous initiatives to increase women's participation in the private sector. The initiatives included controls on workplace ethics and protection of female workers from any transgressions in the private sector.
"These initiatives can be amended so that female Saudi job seekers can join the public sector," she said.
Al-Rajeh said the new plan should also provide means of comfort for working women in the public sector, including the provision of services such as transportation and child care services.
Journalist Tariq al-Imam said he is not too optimistic about the new plan due to perceived reluctance of some to implement the employment strategy issued by the Saudi cabinet in 2009.
"Some ministries, authorities and institutions are still absent when it comes to the role they have been assigned in that strategy," he said. "This is due to several reasons but bureaucratic procedures top the list."
The Saudi employment strategy ratified in 2009 sought to develop and advance the national workforce, increase productivity, and provide jobs that add value and offer a sufficient number of job opportunities with adequate pay, al-Imam said.
That strategy aimed to employ Saudis from all parts of society and create a competitive edge for the national economy, he said.
"Several auditing reports have shown that government authorities have not done their job in implementing that strategy for different reasons, such as bureaucratic administrative procedures, lack of allocated funding and neglecting to put successful plans in place to implement the strategy in certain sectors," al-Imam told Al-Shorfa.
He said it is unlikely the new plan will be more successful.