Ending of female driving ban is lifechanging for expat and Saudi women

Published:  27 Apr at 6 PM
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Tagged: Visas, Australia, Money, Jobs, Euro
Expat professionals and Saudi nationals alike will save money on transportation due to the recent decision to finally allow women to drive.

The cancellation of the law forbidding all women in Saudi Arabia from driving came as either an amazing surprise or an unpleasant shock to Saudi society and its expat workers. For females, whether Saudi nation or expat, the ruling was long overdue, but for taxi drivers and chauffeurs for wealthy families, it meant either lower wages or no jobs. As the date in June when the new law becomes effective creeps closer, Saudi women are immersed in driving lessons and recruitment of foreign drivers has hit a new low.

By the beginning of next year, employment of foreign drivers in the Kingdom is expected to have declined by around 40 per cent, and allowing women to drive will have reduced average monthly expenditures for both expats and Saudi nationals. One economic advisor told local media savings per household should average SR25,000 a year, a not inconsiderable sum even for expat professionals on high salaries. The amount will include the cost of a visa and recruitment expenses as well as drivers’ monthly salaries.

During the fist quarter of 2017, some 1.38 million foreign drivers were registered as working in the Kingdom. Since the announcement of the lifting of the ban, a high number of Saudi women have enrolled for driving lessons, and expat women have applied for driving licenses. Carmaker Ford’s Saudi Arabia base has launched a popular hands-on driving school at Jeddah’s Effat University, with one student saying it’s given her not only driving skills but the confidence to get her licence and actually drive a car at long last.

One thing’s for certain, both for expat women and Saudis, the freedom to simply drive to collect children from school, do the weekend shopping, commute to work or even go for lunch with friends without having to hire a taxi, ask a male family member for help or bear the cost of a live-in driver is a life-changing improvement. For females, the money saved is just the cherry on top of a long-awaited, delicious cake.
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