The billion dollar reason behind women’s right to drive
in Saudi Arabia
Up until September 2017, Saudi Arabia was unique in being the only country in the world where women were forbidden to drive motor vehicles. However, on 26 September 2017, King Salman issued an order to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia, with new guidelines to be created and implemented.
The ban was officially lifted on June 25th 2018. Some women drove through the still-packed streets of the capital on Sunday, while others drove in convoys around Riyadh neighborhoods celebrating the end of the ban. As a landmark achievement for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, the question remains if there’s an actual progress towards gender equality in the society or if the real reasons behind this move is only economic and political.
A Bloomberg Economic report has suggested that the recent law allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia could add up to $90 billion to the kingdom’s economics by 2030. The report added that this decision could help Saudi Arabia increase as much income as selling shares in Saudi Aramco itself. “Selling as much as 5 percent stake in Saudi Arabian Oil Co. — at the most optimistic valuation — could generate about $100 billion, lifting the ban on driving is likely to increase the number of women seeking jobs, boosting the size of the workforce and lifting overall incomes and output,” according to Ziad Daoud, Dubai-based Middle East economist for Bloomberg Economics. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said that ending the ban means “women will be more empowered and more mobile and I think they will participate more in the job market over time, so I think it’s going to contribute to employment of females in Saudi Arabia.”
“A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand,” Al-Falih said in Vienna, in an OPEC meeting.
While there is no doubt that this is indeed a milestone for women’s right in Saudi Arabia, are the reasons behind it more economic than social?
Of course women need these rights, but even more so they need a change in the societal mindset. Is the end of the ban a sign that the path towards such a change has finally started?
Image Source- Women2drive movement, Saudi Arabia.