On April 23rd newspapers reported that 100,000 applicants applied within one week of first announcing vacancies in women government jobs. While a month before it took three weeks to get 50,000 applicants for men government jobs. And the report quietly disappeared without much fuss about its implications and the hopelessness that Saudi women are going through. Yes it’s true that education is free and the majority of these women never had to pay tuition fees on school or university, actually they were given a monthly allowance (stipend) for studying after high school. Saudis have been paid to study since higher education first opened in the country as a way to get more people literate faster. And it worked because just three generations ago literacy was less than 50%.
It worked so well that most people younger than forty have a college degree. And even though women studied and graduated in larger numbers than men, yet it seems like they are expected to think of the whole educational experience as a past-time or just something to make them more desirable as marriage material. Now that all the segregated fields (mostly education) are bursting at the seams with all that human resources, the rest of these women have nowhere to go and little money to spend.
To have a hundred thousand applicants in one week in a part of society with which mobility is an issue should be a matter of great concern, especially considering that there are over 5 million migrant workers taking up jobs like selling lingerie, waiters and chefs and even our hotel industry is mostly run by non Saudis. All the while, Saudi women wilt at home waiting for the government to employ them in jobs that are proper for them to take. Because if they don’t take up something proper they are very likely to have our society drag their reputation and that of their families in the mud. Society does this in its own quiet way without much word getting back to the women concerned. The only apparent sign is a dry up in the number of suitors to all the daughters of that family. Just this week a Saudi news website gave this cultural punishment to a group of Saudi women journalists in a much louder form. The website reported that these lady reporters slept with their editors, smoked pot, drank and had so-called red nights at vacation houses on the outskirts of the city. And I’m glad to say that these women are fighting back with a lawsuit against the website. A lawsuit that the ladies are highly likely to win because our courts tend to bring the hammer down hard when it comes to making outright false allegations that tarnish family honor.
Financial gain in the form of student stipends and later employment salaries has gotten women over the mountain of family consent to study and then teach. Even the most conservative daddies and hubbies just can’t resist that boost to the family income. With the economy slowing down and the rise in living costs, financial gain might again come to the rescue of women in the form of larger numbers of families no longer being able to afford drivers and in expanding society’s definition of proper jobs for women.
For more on the topic you can read an earlier post. And this post from the Susie of Arabia blog.
15 responses to “14,300 applications per day”
One wonders why the government pays for education of women, if they put barriers in front of women who try to use it? In the most recent Arab News http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=122117&d=2&m=5&y=2009, there is an article about a woman who closed her local operations because she no longers want to be cheated by the male agents she needs to hire. Women need to right not only to own property but to run business on their own.
In the US there is a phrase ‘barefoot and pregnant’ that seems to describe what the old guard wants for their women.
Could you clarify for me, please–is it that reputations are tarnished if they don’t obtain a “proper” job, or only if they obtain an “improper” one? (In other words, is there a social stigma attached to women not working outside the home at all?) Either way, of course, it’s very sad that people do that to women and their families.
No there is no social stigma attached to women who stay at home but they would not be regarded as a “catch”. What society considers improper jobs like nursing and journalism. The most ideal jobs are in the education field whether administration or teaching because education is gender segregated and not as time consuming and career oriented as other fields.
*Nursing* isn’t considered a proper job for women?! In the West, it’s almost exclusively a woman’s job … is it acceptable for women to work as physicians or nurses for women, since I assume women don’t allow strange men, even if doctors or nurses, to see or touch their bodies? Or do women just go without medical care?
Recently working as a doctor has become accepted and even a bit prestigious mostly because of its importance and the high income but nursing is mainly practiced by non Saudi women from all over the globe. Male doctors examining Saudi women is considered ok because it is a necessity. And I have to say that medical care here is very high standard. We have the best health care and most advanced hospitals in the region.
“medical care here is very high standard. We have the best health care and most advanced hospitals in the region.”
Yeah right !
salaams. i love your blog, iv just been poring over your posts for the last couple of hours my husband keeps asking me what i find so fascinating online.
i am a muslim female brought up in the west. i was actually born in saudi to immigrant parents but rather than staying until i was 18 to seek higher education they decided to move when i was 4. i am so grateful for that decision of theirs. my father is extremely conservative in religion and he is religious too but he doesnt have the same opinions of those considered to be religious and conservative in saudi. in the uk, the states, all over the west you see muslim women in hijab, sometimes niqab in prominent positions at work or as professionals or even ordinary jobs going about their daily lives. working their careers. interacting with society. my heart breaks that my saudi sisters do not have that opportunity to make use of or even get to the stage of having fun exploring careers or options.
Here, here @asha- I concur! A shame that Saudi’s can not participate even in quality time with their families without it being an issue; let alone wanting to work and be a productive human being…
And it is true what is said- any job done honorably is honorable- even if it is washing dishes, windows, whatever!
As an American I can say that there are some very advanced medical services in Saudi. Not ‘care’ but services as I don’t think Saudi overall has grasped the true concept of ‘care’ when it comes to medicine and treating an entire patient.
I’ve blogged about this topic previously, as I see my own inlaws that are women seeking jobs that just aren’t there. My SIL a widow with three kids gets 1500 SR a month to live on from the benefits of her late husband job. 1500 sr a month?? who in the world can live on that.
What I also noted is that money that is leaving, by a large amount, Saudi and the GCC overall. Instead of hiring women to do a job that it takes several men to do in the service markets, retail markets, and several others and keep that money within Saudis own economy they put out resources to import people. The importing of people not only means money is going out of the country but it also taxes their already strained systems. Water, electricity, food, building, maintenance and the list goes one.
I can understand educating women as this was a country in which many senior women didn’t get the option (I have older members in the family that are illiterate). However one has to ask.. what is the next step?
Society needs to get over the understanding of ‘family honor and dignity” for I don’t see having dignity when your a widow waiting on handouts from ‘sympathetic’ family. There is more honor in earning your own.. that whole Islamic concept and all.
Sorry for the rant.. 🙂
One problem I see for Saudi Arabia, is that only some jobs are deemed acceptible. Until people understand that any labor that is needed is honorable, you won’t solve the problem of foreign labor in the KSA. (I am from the US and 2 of my aunts cleaned houses during their lives – that never made them any less honorable.)
“best health care and most advanced hospitals in the region” That sounds like an overstatement to me.
Maybe in Riyadh and Jeddah but certainly not in other regions of the country such as the north and south. Its actually quite a sad thing
thanks for keeping us updating of what is going on in our own country and city, Riyadh!
… and to those who cares about Feminism in Saudi Arabia, and others who think that women in Saudi Arabia are repressed and persecuted, I would say, not only women who are treated this way, even single men in Saudi as well, and it could be even worse for gay people too!
I hope to see or read a blog about those with lost hopes in Saudi Arabia, homosexuals!… if there are any who cares!
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