Over 500 Saudi lingerie shops shut for non-compliance

With rules on women-only areas

14 November, 15:57

    (ANSAmed) - DUBAI, NOVEMBER 14 - After resolving the age-old paradox of women's lingerie shops run and worked in by men only, Saudi Arabia is now strictly following its new policy of ''feminization'': women's clothing and lingerie shops will from now on have to be run exclusively by women. The grace period having expired, over 500 have now been shut down after labour ministry inspections due to non-compliance, report Saudi media. Almost 1,200 shops were found to be in violation of the regulations during the Islamic year ending on November 3, with especially high numbers in the holy city of Mecca and the capital Riyadh. The measure marked a break with the conservative tradition forbidding women to be seen in public. It was not brought in solely for social requirements, however, but also economic ones.

    Unemployment affects Saudi Arabia as well, and women - who account for 22% of the oil-rich monarchy's workforce - have been hit the hardest. Making it hard for women to find a job is not only their gender but also the very small number of professions open to them, restricted as they for all practical purposes are to the fields of education and healthcare, though a few are starting to be seen in the judiciary, public administration and politics. The opening up of the retail world to women - though confined to 'family' departments accessible solely to women, with separate entrances for men and women - has made for about 50,000 jobs over the past year, reports Glowork, the first specialised manpower agency for women.

    Of the 1.6 million who applied for 'job-seeker' benefits introduced two years ago by Saudi authorities to encourage its citizens to seek work, 1.2 million are women, underscores Glowork, noting that 40% of them have a university degree. Nevertheless, companies that want to hire women and renovate their work environments to prevent 'promiscuity' often do not know who to speak to. The 'feminization' of retail is also part of the 'Saudization' of the country's workforce, through which the government is trying to reduce the number of foreign workers. The massive sweep-up operation of undocumented workers over the past few days is a means to this end, several analysts say, in order to create opportunities for the poorer segments of Saudi society. (ANSAmed).

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